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JS Bach

Instrumental Works

The Well-Tempered Clavier

The best known of Bach's clavier works is the famous set of preludes and fugues called The Well-Tempered Clavier. Part I was completed at Cöthen in 1722, and Part II was completed at Leipzig around 1740. Each part consists of twenty-four preludes and fugues, one prelude and one fugue in each of the twelve major and minor keys. Part I is more unified in style and purpose than Part II, which includes compositions from many different periods of Bach's life. In addition to demonstrating the possibility, with the then novel tempered tuning, of using all the keys, Bach had particular intentions to teach in Part I. In most of the preludes a single specific technical task is given the player; thus they might be called, in the terminology of a later age, études, for which some of Bach's little preludes (BWV 933-943) as well as all the two-part inventions and the three-part sinfonias may be regarded as preliminary studies. The teaching aims of The Well-Tempered Clavier go beyond mere technique, however, for the preludes exemplify different types of keyboard composition of the late Baroque. The fugues, wonderfully varied in subjects, texture, form, and treatment, constitute a compendium of all the possibilities of concentrated, monothematic fugal writing. The ancient ricercare is represented (Book I, No. 4 in C sharp minor), as well as the use of inversion, canon, and augmentation (No. 8, E flat minor), virtuosity in a fugue with a da capo ending (No. 3, C sharp major), and many other styles. In Part II, the Fugue in D major (No. 5) may be mentioned as a superlative example of concentrated abstract musical structure using the simplest materials, while the Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor (No. 14) is outstanding for beauty of themes and proportions. As in the organ fugues, each subject in Bach's clavier figures is a clearly defined musical personality, of which the entire fugue is to be a logical development and projection. 

Organ Music. Bach's early works, pre-Weimar, through his late works at Leipzig.

String Keyboard (clavier) music. Covers the Bach's significant pieces.

The Well-Tempered Clavier. The best known of Bach's clavier works.

Suites and Partitas. Bach's clavier suites and partitas.

Goldberg Variations. This aria with thirty variations is representative of Baroque theme and variations.
Solo music for other instruments. Compositions primarily from Bach's period in Cöthen including his cello suites.

Orchestral music. Examples of Baroque concertos and suites, including Air on the G String and the Brandenburg Concertos.

Inventions and Sinfonia. Two sets of fifteen contrapuntal pieces written for teaching purposes.
Canons. Bach's canonic variations.

Musical Offering. Based on a theme given to Bach by Frederick the Great.

Art of Fugue. Bach's final collection of fugues and canons.

Unfinished fugue. Last in the Art of Fugue, this fugue is formed from the letters of Bach's name.