Prelude & Fugue No.8

Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude & Fugue No.8 in Eb minor

BWV853 • “The Well-tempered Clavier Book 1: Prelude & Fugue No. 8”

About this work

The prelude is at once ceremonial and tragic, a procession of widely spaced chords connected by a single, highly ornamented line. The fugue is technically in D sharp minor -- there was a difference in tuning in Bach's day, although this is now obscured, particularly when played on the piano. Further complicating matters, it was originally written in D minor, and later transposed to fill the E flat minor gap in this set. Massive by Well Tempered Clavier standards, it features a sober, expansive subject that meanders in two parts for quite some time before the subject's third appearance -- an entrance that fails to deliver a sustained third voice. The texture remains extraordinarily spare. Meditative and desolate, the fugue picks its way through a bleak musical soundscape, occasionally in danger of slipping into harrowing harmonic territory. Fugues are reputedly the most intellectual of musical forms, but this fugue makes a particularly emotional impression.