Bah: science and a harmonic

Bethveen piano and harpsichord

German musician and composer recognised as one of the best organists of his time.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  Attached and loyal to his country (unlike other cosmopolitan composers like Handel) his entire career took place in central Germany. In addition to having an exceptional mastery of the organ, he was also a virtuoso in other instruments: his gifts for harpsichord, violin and viola impressed all his listeners. His works are characterised by melodic invention of high quality, science and a harmonic, contrapuntal development and lyricism of the highest level. He remains the master of the fugue, of the church cantata, the suite and the chorale prelude, genres he has greatly improved. With Bach, the Baroque reached its peak.

 His musical legacy is vast. Whilst Bach did not create new musical forms, his works had a style that was quite innovative for its time and that synthesised the main European musical traditions of his time (from Italy, France or the Germanic countries) . Furthermore, the organ and the harpsichord were central in the work of Bach, with more than 400 compositions for these instruments, they play a major role as soloist and accompaniments in symphonies, sonatas or concertos.


One of the most fundamental aspects of Bach's music is reflected in the design of the prelude.

This is an instrumental piece without particular form and serves as an introduction to musical works. In the baroque tradition, this prelude generally precedes the fugue or a sequence of dances, but its structure and writing can vary greatly. For example, it is essential to include a masterpiece in the musical career of Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier. In this composition, the fugue precedes 48 times the prelude, and Bach employs a polyphonic style in several forms: under the old form of the ricercare, in the form of Bicinium or as imitations of many voices. Thus, Bach brings in to his piece two preludes and fugue cycles: each book thus offers a prelude and fugue in 24 major and minor modes. These two very famous and fundamental books have certainly got a goal for classical music, but also instructive and theoretical, as illustrated by the title of the first book "[...] For the practice and the benefit of young musicians’ eagerness to educate themselves for the enjoyment of those who are already experienced in this art. "

On our site we propose a study of Bach Prelude in C Major, 6 lessons. To know more about it and see an exemple click here.


It is important to remember that this work was written for the harpsichord and organ.

Bach magnifies the use of these instruments and brings them to the melodies and musical effects unheard of so far. The Well-Tempered Clavier is an extremely rich work representing the culmination of research and work by its composer who deserves the title of the best contrapuntist of all time. This is a unique work: no prelude or any likeness is similar, which provides an exceptional melodic and rhythmic variety. It is however necessary to clarify that Bach was probably inspired by the collection of preludes and fugues of the German composer J. C. Fischer, called Ariadne Musica, for writing two books of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Other Bach compositions employ this prelude and fugue format as Prelude and Fugue in A minor (BWV 543) or Prelude (Toccata) and Fugue in E major (BWV 566). Nevertheless, the Well-Tempered Clavier was chosen by leading musicians such as a technical exercise: Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven and many others have admired this work and have always considered the example to follow.


On the other hand, we can also mention the Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 538), which has the same name as the Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565). The latter is best known, but the first is also found under the name of Dorian, referring to the absence of the flat throughout the room, a feature that is not typically found in a work composed in D minor. The Toccata BWV 538 is monothematic and begins with double quaver note patterns that continue throughout the room. It also has developed concerto effects that are rather unusual. Bach introduces same manual changes to the organ, which was an unusual practice at the time.