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Thread: Learning WTC, Complementary pairs

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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Default Learning WTC, Complementary pairs

    So I have gotten down the easiest prelude in the whole set and am learning the fugue in C minor from Book I, which is the easiest fugue I have ever come across.

    Here is what I notice with the C tonic pieces in Book I:

    C major Prelude: Easy peasy, even a beginner pianist could play it.

    C major Fugue: Oh my god, all those strettos. This must be the hardest fugue in the book.

    C minor Prelude: This is way harder than the almost nonstop Alberti bass of the Andante movement of K 545 because the Alberti bass is in both hands, in contrary motion, at a Presto tempo. Fast Alberti bass is much harder than slow Alberti bass for the same number of measures, especially at Presto.

    C minor Fugue: This must be the easiest fugue in the book. For a composer of very hard fugues, this is the fugue to learn first if you want to master the WTC.

    So with C major, the prelude is easy but the fugue is very hard. The reverse is true for C minor. I was wondering, do any other prelude and fugue pairs with the same tonic note have this complementary relationship that I see with the C tonic? And also, I'm wondering how the preludes and fugues separately would order from easiest to hardest. If I know that order for all the preludes and all the fugues, then I can master the WTC without worrying about whether the next prelude or fugue is super hard.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    (edit - disregard first point I was confusing the C minor fugue with the C sharp minor). The C major prelude isn't too hard, but I do find the repetitive motion in the right hand can get a little tiring.

    I'm not sure about the difficulty levels of all preludes and fugues. For now my goal is to learn specific preludes and fugues as opposed to all of them, so I prefer to learn them in pairs. At the moment I'm still working on the C major fugue, after which I'd like to move onto the G minor prelude and fugue from Book I.
    Last edited by tdc; May-09-2019 at 00:46.

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    The C major fugue is actually one of the easiest of the book; though perhaps not the easiest (that would go to the D major, D minor, and C minor) it is much easier than say the A minor, the B minor, or even really any of the other fugues. (Except maybe the G minor).

    Out of the fugues of the first book I have learned so far, here is my ranking of the general difficulty of them (top is hardest.):

    F# major
    Bb major
    F major
    F minor
    C# minor
    Bb minor
    G minor
    C major
    D major
    C minor
    D minor

    Note: I have found that I generally find counterpoint a lot easier than the average pianist and speed a lot harder, so this list will likely be much different for you. And of course I am only including fugues I have fully learnt so there are much harder fugues not on that list.

    It's harder to rank the preludes as they are generally around the same difficulty, though the C major is substantially easier than the rest of the preludes and a few are much harder (C minor, D major, Eb major? (which itself takes the form of a toccata and fugue) and possibly a few others.)
    Last edited by Schoenberg; May-09-2019 at 06:18.

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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schoenberg View Post
    The C major fugue is actually one of the easiest of the book; though perhaps not the easiest (that would go to the D major, D minor, and C minor) it is much easier than say the A minor, the B minor, or even really any of the other fugues. (Except maybe the G minor).
    Really? The C major fugue sounds like one of the hardest, what with all those strettos, a lot of them being off the beat too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by caters View Post
    Really? The C major fugue sounds like one of the hardest, what with all those strettos, a lot of them being off the beat too.
    For me it was easier than the rest of the fugues, though it might be different for you. I suggest (if you haven't already) look at the rest of the book to see what you find to be the most approachable.
    It of course also depends what tempo you play it at.

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    I cherry-pick preludes and/or fugues as I feel like. Sure, any given pair are complementary to a greater or lesser extent, but unless you are doing an exam I see no particular need to be obliged strictly to follow that convention.

    Follow your inclination, and see how you get on. Do try the ones in exotic keys if any such one is musically interesting to you - for instance, double-sharps can be intimidating but that becomes reduced once you take time to study the D#-minor fugue.

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    A bit off topic but I'd like to recommend Gottlieb Muffat's fugues.
    They're really short (some as short as 11bars) and can be sight read at slow speed if you leave out the ornaments.
    Of course, they're waaay below Bach's fugues, but they're great exercises and fun to play.

    https://imslp.org/wiki/72_Versetl_sa...t%2C_Gottlieb)

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    Quote Originally Posted by infracave View Post
    A bit off topic but I'd like to recommend ...
    Ditto, I'd recommend Scarlatti's which are easier but quite excellent: https://shop.abrsm.org/shop/prod/Sca...-Fugues/635574
    Last edited by nobilmente; May-21-2019 at 22:05.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Agreed. I am a beginner pianist, and after learning the C major prelude I of course wanted to try my hand at the fugue. I gave up pretty quickly. Too bad as it's a beautiful fugue. So the C minor is a little easier, eh? I will have to give that one a shot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Agreed. I am a beginner pianist, and after learning the C major prelude I of course wanted to try my hand at the fugue. I gave up pretty quickly. Too bad as it's a beautiful fugue. So the C minor is a little easier, eh? I will have to give that one a shot.
    Try Handel fughetta in C major.
    You can play it right after your prelude. Delightful little fugue too.

    https://imslp.org/wiki/A_Collection_...orge_Frideric)

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Good call, thanks! I am a fan of Handel. It would be good to learn some of his works.

    As for Bach, what are some of his easier contrapuntal works? Doesn't have to be WTC, but I do want to start learning something. Maybe the C major invention?

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    ^ Yeah, the inventions are great. Try d minor or f major. Everyone loves these.

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