BWV 858

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

The Well-Tempered Clavier I No. 13 in F-sharp major

BWV 858 performed by Menno van Delft
at home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Harpsichordist Menno van Delft plays from the original manuscript. Why?

Deceptive Simplicity

The gently swaying, two-part movement of the 'Prelude in F-sharp major', BWV 858, makes it sound deceptively simple.

After a short canonic opening, the right hand is restricted to a somewhat rambling melody in an endless festoon of notes grouped in threes, whereby the first of the three is often missing. The left hand remains alert and adds the missing note, so that the upper voice keeps up. With only an occasional melodic outpouring, the bass gently and swiftly steers the melody to a safe haven.
The fugue opens with a robust theme that is parried by a briskly bouncing second part. After crossing swords three times, the two voices find one another in cheerfully tumbling ricochets, with only very scant reference to the initial fugue theme.

Das Wohltemperirte Clavier, BWV 846-893
Composing 48 keyboard pieces in all 24 keys was the sort of challenge Bach enjoyed. In each of the two parts of the Wohltemperirte Clavier, he brought together the musical couple prelude and fugue 24 times; twelve in minor keys and twelve in major. In the preludes, he gave free rein to his imagination, and demonstrated mathematical tours de force in the fugues. In contrast to the iron discipline Bach had to apply to his church compositions, here he could abandon himself to intellectual Spielerei without worrying about deadlines.

The first part of the Wohltemperirte Clavier dates from 1722, although it contains some music that was written in the preceding five years. There is less clarity about the history of part two. Bach compiled this second manuscript only around 1740, although once again some of the preludes and fugues it contains date from a much earlier period. Bach described the target group for this collection of pieces as follows: ‘Zum Nutzen und Gebrauch der Lehr-begierigen Musicalischen Jugend, als auch dere in diesem studio schon habil seyenden besonderem ZeitVertreib’ (For both the education of the industrious musical youngster and the enjoyment of those well-versed in this material’).


Prelude and fugue in F-sharp major

no. 13 from The Well-Tempered Clavier I

keyboard work

Das Wohltemperirte Clavier I

1722 or earlier

Cöthen (or Weimar?)

Cast & Crew

Date 13 September 2013
Location Amsterdam
harpsichordist Menno van Delft
harpsichord C.F. Laeske, Amsterdam 1768
PRODUCer Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
CAMERA Joost Rietdijk
Film editor Leonie Hoever
MUSIC EDITOR Frank van der Weij

Vocal Texts




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