Prelude & Fugue No.20

Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude & Fugue No.20 in A minor

BWV865 • “The Well-tempered Clavier Book 1: Prelude & Fugue No. 20”

About this work

The concise, dual-voiced prelude, dramatic and stern, is a mere appetizer compared to the meaty fugue, a four-voice work with a substantial subject announcing itself in the alto voice, then soprano, bass, and tenor. One remarkable feature of this fugue is its use of sustained notes (even though this is not a slow-tempo piece), suggesting that Bach conceived it for a pedal harpsichord or an organ with pedals (something not to be taken for granted in the private homes of Bach's day); this allows a low note to be sustained while all the fingers are free to work in higher ranges.