BWV 859

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

The Well-Tempered Clavier I No. 14 in F-sharp minor

BWV 859 performed by Jacques Ogg
at home in Bunde, The Netherlands

"F-sharp minor is a wonderful key. Full of melancholy."

Filled with melancholy

You just have to play it.

For this recording, we visited harpsichordist Jacques Ogg in Bunde, Limburg. Jacques Ogg is a big fan of F-sharp minor, the key of Prelude and fugue no. 14 from the Wohltemperirte Clavier: “It’s a strange key”, he says, “filled with melancholy”. And in this Prelude and fugue the ingenious Bach demonstrates the different ways he can represent that wonderful, sombre character. In the Prelude, he chooses to use the minimum of means. The theme is based on just four notes and the piece is almost completely constructed as a two-part invention. And it is precisely in this simplicity that the master reveals himself. In the four-part Fugue, we hear the melancholy in the yearning counter theme, for instance. “It’s all so subtly constructed, you just have to play it”, says harpsichordist Jacques Ogg.

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’).


BWV
859

title
Prelude and fugue in F-sharp minor

Epithet
no. 14 from The Well-Tempered Clavier I

Genre
keyboard work

Series
Das Wohltemperirte Clavier I

Year
1722 or earlier

City
Cöthen (or Weimar?)

Cast & Crew

Release date 5 October 2018
Recording date 10 March 2018
Location Bunde, The Netherlands
Harpsichordist Jacques Ogg
Harpsichord Cristofori, approx. 1710
Director Jan Van den Bossche
Music recording, edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera and interview Gijs Besseling
Producer Marco Meijdam

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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