The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II : Work information

Composers
Johann Sebastian Bach ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Robert Levin (Keyboard)

This work

Work name
The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II
Work number
BWV 870-893
Key
n/a
Genre
A
Composed
1744-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Label
Hänssler
Producer
Teije van Geest
Engineer
Ursula Seewann, Eckhard Steiger
Recording date
2000-05-01 01:00:00

The Composers

Johann Sebastian Bach

One of the greatest composers in history, Johann Sebastian Bach (father of C.P.E, J. C. and W. F. Bach) was by far the most significant member of the Bach dynasty of musicians.

He outshone his forebears and contemporaries, but did not always receive the respect he deserved in his own lifetime. After a brief engagement as a violinist in the court of Weimar, Bach became organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt. In June 1707 he moved to St. Blasius, Mühlhausen, and married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. In 1708 he was appointed court organist in Weimar where he composed most of his works for organ. In 1717, he was appointed Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold at Cöthen, but was refused permission to leave Weimar. The Duke only allowed Bach to go after holding him prisoner for nearly a month.

While at Weimar, Bach wrote his violin concertos and the six Brandenburg Concertos, as well as several suites, sonatas and keyboard works, including several, such as the Inventions and Book I of the 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-tempered Clavier). In 1720 Maria Barbara died, and the next year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke. Bach resigned the post in Weimar in 1723 to become cantor at St. Thomas’ School in Leipzig where he was responsible for music in the four main churches of the city. Here he wrote the Magnificat and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions, as well as a large quantity of other church music. In Leipzig he eventually took charge of the University “Collegium Musicum” and occupied himself with the collection and publication of many of his earlier compositions.

Over the years that followed, Bach’s interest in composing church music declined somewhat, and he took to writing more keyboard music and cantatas. As his eyesight began to fail, he underwent operations to try and correct the problem, and these may have weakened him in his old age. He died at age 65, having fathered a total of 20 children with his two wives. Despite widespread neglect for almost a century after his death, Bach is now regarded as one of the greatest of all composers and is still an inexhaustible source of inspiration for musicians. Bach’s compositions are catalogued by means of the prefix BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) and a numbering system which is generally accepted for convenience of reference.

Related Composers: Pachelbel, Telemann, Handel, Couperin

Also influenced: Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, Hindemith 

Track listing

  • Prelude in C BWV 870 3:05 min
  • Fugue in C BWV 870 1:51 min
  • Prelude in C minor BWV 871 2:11 min
  • Fugue in C minor BWV 871 2:30 min
  • Prelude in C sharp BWV 872 1:38 min
  • Fugue in C sharp BWV 872 1:54 min
  • Prelude in C sharp minor BWV 873 3:47 min
  • Fugue in C sharp minor BWV 873 2:17 min
  • Prelude in D BWV 874 4:58 min
  • Fugue in D BWV 874 2:59 min
  • Prelude in D BWV 875 1:38 min
  • Fugue in D minor BWV 875 1:58 min
  • Prelude in E flat BWV 876 2:14 min
  • Fugue in E flat BWV 876 1:59 min
  • Prelude in D sharp minor BWV 877 3:10 min
  • Fugue in D sharp minor BWV 877 3:26 min
  • Prelude in E BWV 878 4:04 min
  • Fugue in E BWV 878 3:30 min
  • Prelude in E minor BWV 879 3:27 min
  • Fugue in E minor BWV 879 2:41 min
  • Prelude in F BWV 880 3:02 min
  • Fugue in F BWV 880 1:40 min
  • Prelude in F minor BWV 881 4:49 min
  • Fugue in F minor BWV 881 1:51 min
  • Prelude in F sharp BWV 882 2:52 min
  • Fugue in F sharp BWV 882 2:11 min
  • Prelude in F sharp minor BWV 883 2:26 min
  • Fugue in F sharp minor BWV 883 3:18 min
  • Prelude in G BWV 884 2:06 min
  • Fugue in G BWV 884 1:30 min
  • Prelude in G minor BWV 885 3:05 min
  • Fugue in G minor BWV 885 2:38 min
  • Prelude in A flat BWV 886 4:00 min
  • Fugue in A flat BWV 886 2:35 min
  • Prelude in G sharp minor BWV 887 3:50 min
  • Fugue in G sharp minor BWV 887 5:27 min
  • Prelude in A BWV 888 1:56 min
  • Fugue in A BWV 888 1:26 min
  • Prelude in A minor BWV 889 3:50 min
  • Fugue in A minor BWV 889 1:44 min
  • Prelude in B flat BWV 890 5:50 min
  • Fugue in B flat BWV 890 2:45 min
  • Prelude in B flat minor BWV 891 2:47 min
  • Fugue in B flat minor BWV 891 4:42 min
  • Prelude in B BWV 892 1:54 min
  • Fugue in B BWV 892 3:28 min
  • Prelude in B minor BWV 893 2:01 min
  • Fugue in B minor BWV 893 1:44 min

Notes

The Well-Tempered Clavier was the title J S Bach gave to a. 1722 set of 24 paired preludes and fugues, one for each of the possible major and minor keys. This second collection was completed in 1744 and though its original title was not Das wohltemperirte Clavier, its identical structure has naturally led to its association with the earlier set.

In contrast to the first book, this later set of paired preludes and fugues was partly assembled from existing pieces, though as with book 1, some were undoubtedly transposed to fit the key scheme. There are some freshly composed pieces, however, dating from the late 1730s.

Together the two books are known colloquially as 'the 48' and for many years formed the basis of a solid clavichord or harpsichord technique. Bach, himself, would use the 48 as the conclusion of his own teaching course, which began with the Inventions and the English and French Suites, and Beethoven was just one of the future pupils to benefit from its thoroughness after Bach's death.