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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (1st of 2)

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When we began our monthly series Once Upon the Internet last year, our intent was to use it to share some of the finds we made over the years on now defunct sites, so that other music lovers could enjoy them, or add them to their digital collection.

For the next two weeks, I’m very pleased to bring you what I personally consider to be my “best ever find” through data mining, dating back almost 12 years now, from the original MP3.COM. Today’s discussion will revolve around how I found this, and a few words on the works featured this – and next – week.

The Legends Pages on MP3.COM

It may be a tad pretentious to use these terms, but the classical works available on the old MP3.COM included the works of a pair of so-called legends: Paul Badura-Skoda and Jörg Demus. We featured both these pianists on our first-ever OUTI post back in May of 2012 (playing piano four-hand pieces by Schubert).

Paul Badura-Skoda’s “legends” page included (either for streaming or for download) the complete piano sonatas by Beethoven. Since he is one of the few 20th century pianists having a musicological slant on these works, the insight gained in listening to his performances was well worth it. There were of course many other pieces offered on the page – works by Debussy, Bartok and Mozart chief among them.

The Jörg Demus “legends” page offered its own sampling of works by many composers, but his “special” contribution was a complete version of the Well-Tempered Clavier he’d recorded between 1968 and 1970, originally issued on LP and (from what I gathered in doing research at the time) much re-issued. Unlike the Badura-Skoda Beethoven sonatas, all of Demus’ tracks were available for download – and I mined all 48 tracks.

In next week’s post, I’ll spend more time discussing Demus as an artist, and talk about some of the other versions of the WTC that are “openly available”.

About the work


Composed about 20 years apart, the two sets of 24 preludes and Fugues that constitute the two books of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier didn’t start off as one huge collection of 48 works – in fact, the set of “24 Preludes and Fugues” composed in 1742 were not issued as a “sequel” to the original WTC of 1722. Musicologists have, however, come to combine the two sets, as they are both in the same mould – exploiting the concept that many more composers (from Chopin to moist recently François Dompierre) have followed, that of creating a set of works written in every major and minor key.

Bach's autograph fair copy bears the following title page:

The Well-Tempered Clavier,
Preludes and Fugues
through all the tones and semitones
both as regards the tertia major or Ut Re Mi
and as concerns the tertia minor or Re Mi Fa.
For the Use and Profit of the Musical Youth Desirous of Learning
as well as for the Pastime of those Already Skilled in this Study
drawn up and written by Johann Sebastian Bach.
p.t. Capellmeister to His Serene Highness
the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen, etc.
and Director of
His Chamber Music.
Anno 1722.
Though the Well-Tempered Clavier was not published during Bach's lifetime, many manuscript copies were made by his pupils and copies spread steadily all over Europe with his fame. Influential musicians such as Mozart and Beethoven received manuscripts and as everyone knows, these composers in turn influenced the direction of the Western music. The works were finally published 51 years after the composer's death.

To call the individual preludes and fugues “studies” or works for students is selling these treasures short; these are masterful works for the keyboard, as varied and audacious as the variety of key signatures Bach uses.

As for the performance – it flows smoothly, pensive and at times ethereal. Look for Book II in next week’s post.


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
"Das Wohltemperierte Klavier" (The Well-Tempered Clavier), 24 Preludes and Fugues, BWV 846-869
Jörg Demus (Piano)
(Studio recording, 1970)
MP3.COM Download 28 Nov 2001)

Performance URL (Internet Archive):

October 18 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Back to Bach - Orgelwerke" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more October 18 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Oct-15-2013 at 10:22 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Musicians , Recorded Music