Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
Recorded Live at Teatro Peón Contreras
Mérida, Yucatán, México
The best known of J.S. Bach‘s clavier works is the famous set of preludes and fugues known as the Well-Tempered Clavier. This musical text was intended to function as a fundamental guide for the understanding of harmony and rhythm. The objective – to introduce the 24 major and minor keys — was a challenging notion at the time; the established traditions of instrumental tuning did not allow for the simultaneous use of many keys with multiple sharps or flats on one instrument. Bach was attempting to integrate a type of tempered tuning that has remained the foundation of musical thought to this day.
Despite being initially implemented as teaching guides for his students, Bach’s complete collection of the preludes and fugues are now highly regarded musical works, not only for how influential they have been but also because of their unique intricacies and complexities. In principle and compositionally speaking, the preludes are lyrical and free; the fugues — strict. All these vary wonderfully in subject, texture, form, and treatment. Indeed, they represent a form of metaphysical sustenance for the spirit and offer a portal into the musical arts. For the 30-year-old Mozart, an encounter with a Bach fugue transformed his creative style. For Beethoven, performance of the clavier works reinforced his early reputation and inspired his musical development. For many others, they remain valuable historical artifacts and tools to understanding tonality and musical invention.
This release is the first in a series of live performances which comprise the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I.
released July 2, 2014
Cover: detail from ‘Dresden’ etching by Alexander Thiele (1726)