Bach: Little Preludes (12)

Little Preludes played by Gary Lloyd

The idea that these 12 Little Preludes are somehow a set, or that they belong together is totally arbitrary. The order they are published in is not totally the in the order in which they were composed. In other words, the original editor put some that were supposedly composed earlier farther down in the list.

However, the “BWv” numbers, which means “Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis” (Bach Works Catalogue), are by no means 100% correct. In fact, much of the time we have no idea when Bach wrote his music. So this arbitrary order is very bad for contrasts. The keys do not line up well. You end up with two in a row in the same key, and the preludes do not lead from one to the next with complimentary keys, moods or tempos.

The order I picked is extremly pleasing to my ear in the way that one key leads to the next, and I have picked tempos to vary so that you don’t have all slow, or all fast, all loud, all soft.

One thing that is missing in the world of “classical music” is a sense of drama, balance and a kind of “packaging” that makes the music as approachable as possible. All 12 preludes are more than 15 minutes long, which is a long time to listen in one sitting. But each prelude averages around two minutes long. When music is mixed this way I find it much easier to be introduced to new music. My attention span is probably no longer than around three minutes. The reason I can listen to an hour symphony is that things are continually changing. Every few minutes something new and interesting happens. If this were not so I would be mentally MIA in less than five minutes.

  1. #11 Gm BWV 930
  2. #7 E Minor, BWV 941
  3. #12 A Minor, BWV 942
  4. #1 C Major, BWV 924
  5. #9 F Major, BWV 928
  6. #3 C Minor BWV 999
  7. #2 C Major BWV 934
  8. #8 F Major BWV 927
  9. #6 Dm BWV 940
  10. #10 Gm BWV 929
  11. #5 Dm BWV 926

The last one is not recorded yet. I hope to get to it in the next couple days. Originally #4, the last one on my personal list is the hardest, and also one of the most upbeat. It is also a great key to transition to from G minor.

#4 D BWV 925

7 thoughts on “Bach: Little Preludes (12)

  1. All of this is working. As for JSB liking the results.. something tells me he would. Judging fro what I’ve seen in versions of a given work that “evolve” over time, from conception to being put into the 1st notebook for CPE, then the 2nd one for Wilhelm Fredrick — it’s the same music, but it keeps changing. I think he probably changed it around every time he played it! (It being many of the compositions in the Little 12, they were mostly found in the books for CPE and later WF.)

  2. More thoughts than I can express, since I’ve thought of this music before. I like what I’m hearing. Re: guitar – I remember Bach wrote for lute, and even had a kind of “lute keyboard” built. Instinctively, it fits. Nikolayeva – yes!

  3. (Prelude No. three) Well, you may have grappled with how to play it for a week but you sure did it well. I like the stretchiness in tempo without getting into a real rubato. Gives it life. Animates it.

    1. In fact, Louie, I spent about a week recovering from too much recording, so things went a lot better. I only complete 4 of them, but I have in mind to eventually do more and perhaps all 12.

      1. These are really good, Gary. Nobody gets this sound, most of the ones I’ve heard over the years make this music sound robotic. Not you. Yours is alive. Looking forward to the rest.

        1. We’ve talked about this. No one knows how Bach played, or what his music sounded like on keyboards of the time. But what I hear today from pianists leaves me utterly cold except for one – Tatiana Nikolayeva. I find her conceptions stunning.

          Other than that what I like are transcriptions for other instruments, most of all for guitar. That’s my conception. Maybe Bach would not like this sound. Maybe he’d love it. We just don’t know.

          But that’s how I hear it, how I feel it, and how I relate to the playing of others.

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