The Prelude and Fugue in C major by J. S. Bach, is part of the "Well Tempered Clavier" finished in 1722. Every book has a series of 24 Preludes and Fugues organized chromatically ascendantm these preludes and fugues were compilated by bach in order to prove the tempered tune and also he wrote hose with didactical purposes to develop the fingers independence for the students as well as the development of the harmonic/melodic sense.


The Prelude has an improvisatory character. It has arpeggiated chords. From the measure 1 to the measure 4 it has established the C major Tonality, however after measure 5 the harmony
Prelude and Fugue No05:19

Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, Gulda pianist-1


modulates to the dominant, clearly in the measures 10 and 11. In the measure 18 to the measure 19 the C major tonality comes back. From the measures 21 to 24 there is chromaticism in the base to rich the dominant (g) which is treated as a pedal until the measure 33 when the pedal is in the tonic (c) to the end in the measure 36. 

The fugue can be divided in exposition, development and coda. In the exposition the voices enter in this order: The theme begins from the measure 1 to the first half of the measure 2 by the contralto, and then it is the answer in the second half of the measure 2 by the soprano. In the measure 4th the tenor answers and in the measure 6 the bass has its entrance with the theme. In the measure 7 the soprano repeats the theme and the tenor voice have the answer this method is called “stretto” (drawing together). In this fugue there is a plenty utilization of the stretto for example in the measures 14-15 the contralto has the theme and the tenor the answer immediately and in the next measure  the bass and then the soprano in the next beat have the answer too. The development begins in the measure 7 until the measure 23, during this part harmonically passes through am, dm and G Major ex: Am: the deceptive cadence in m13-14 (V-i); dm: m19 (V-I) and GM: m 21 (V-I). The Coda part is from the measure 24 to the End with a C pedal in the base.


I am going to compare this prelude and fugue with the prelude and fugue no. 9 in E Major from the same book. The Prelude from the fugue 9 does not have the improvisatory character of the
Prelude and Fugue No02:29

Prelude and Fugue No. 9 in E major, BWV 854, from Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, Gulda pianist

Prelude no.1, because here you can establish three voices which has contrapuntal texture, it has a dance character because of the 12/8. Harmonically there is nothing to contrast with the [prelude no. 1 the harmony maintains in E Major making some connections with the dominant like the Prelude no.1 in the Development part (after measure 8) it passes through B Major, its dominant (F Major) and then after the bridge during the measures 13to the 15th it begins the re-exposition in A major (Subdominant of E Major) until the modulation to E Major in the measure 18. The ornamentation is a contrast with the Prelude 1, which does not have any type of ornaments, but here in the Prelude 9 there is an ornamentation marking although there are only a few like in the beginning of the theme in the exposition and in the re-exposition. The fugue can be contrasted in term of voices the Fugue no. 1 has 4 voices and this fugue no.9 has 3. Another contrasting element is the virtuosic character led by the eighteenths.


This prelude and Fugue as well as all the preludes and fugues by Bach have a didactic character because Bach composed them to teach harmony to his students for the interpretation and also he made them to copy it. All these works are great to gain independent fingers, to educate our ears polyphonically and the most importantly develop of the musical comprehension during its performance and study. Bach with this work influenced future generation of composers who inspired by him composed the following works: “Preludes and Fuges” op 35 (F. Mendelsohn); 24 preludes and Fugues” (D. Shostakovich), and many others.

Works citedEdit

Bruhn, Siglind. “J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier: In-Depth Analysis and Interpretation." Notes. (1995): 90-91

Andrew, White. "The Prelude and Fugue in C Major from Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier [Book 1]": Notes on the Compositional Process." Bach. (1992): 47-60

“Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, Gulda pianist.” Youtube Video. Uploaded Dec 4, 2008. Posted by “henripche. “Accessed March 18, 2014.

“Prelude and Fugue No. 9 in E major, BWV 854, from Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, Gulda pianist.” Uploaded Jan 29, 2009. Posted by: “henripche. ”Accessed March 18, 2014.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. Prelude and Fugue no. 1 in C major, BWV 846. Score. ISMLP. Accessed March 18, 2014.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. Prelude and Fugue no. 9 in E major, BWV 854. Score. ISMLP. Accessed March 18, 2014.

File:Prelude and fuge in C major-BWV 846.pdfFile:IMSLP81774-PMLP05948-BWV 854.pdf

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