Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (1722-1742) stands at the core of western classical music. This truly encyclopedic composition, which carried music in a new epoch, accomplished a unique process in the history of music.
The release of thought, the intellectual expansion, the immense inventiveness, the passionate search for ever new variations of forms are an expression of a new artistic and intellectual freedom nurtured in the soil of the age of enlightenment.
Looking at the Well-Tempered Clavier as a complete essay, we find that groups of the most varied genres are represented: Quite naturally toccata and fantasia stand in special relationship to the preludes, and in particular their principle enters in the conclusion of many preludes as an element of improvisation. But the French overture too, the melodic humanized art of expression of Bach’s arias, the pastoral and song like music, are all related to individual parts of the work. One of the most noticeable features is the introduction of dance like elements in a completely original approach – the gavotte, the bourrée, the minuet, the passepied, the gigue... The magnificent minor-key music in this great cycle is Bach’s completely new contribution to the literature of the clavier.
Whether played on the harpsichord, the clavichord, the organ or the modern piano, only by comprehending the bold intent in the harmony and the polyrhythmic structure, the immense variety of form and the forward looking new spirit that imbues this work, it will be possible to reproduce its greatness.