Prelude & Fugue No.24

Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude & Fugue No.24 in B minor

BWV869 • “The Well-tempered Clavier Book 1: Prelude & Fugue No. 24”

About this work

Book I of the Well Tempered Clavier closes with some of the most ambitious music in the collection. First, the prelude may sound thin-textured, but it actually employs fugal counterpoint over a steadily jogging bass line -- a far more complex piece than it may seem to the casual ear. Then comes the fugue, the longest and grandest in the set. The Largo tempo marking has something to do with the length, naturally, but the work inherently requires room to stretch out. The extended subject uses all the notes of the chromatic scale. Thus, it's a twelve-tone composition written nearly two centuries before Schoenberg championed dodecaphony, although Bach does not employ any of the techniques of manipulation Schoenberg would rely on; his goal is to write a well-ordered Baroque fugue. It's a four-voice fugue, with the voices entering in the alto, tenor, bass, and finally soprano, but as in the prelude, Bach avoids dense textures at all times.