BACH, J.S.: The Well-Tempered Clavier
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Johann Sebastian Bach(1685- 1750)
The Well-temperedClavier (Selections)
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that had for generationsbeen occupied in music. His sons were to continue the tradition, providing thefoundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the later part of theeighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of anage, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italianmelodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely by his eldestbrother, after the early death of his parents. At the age of eighteen heembarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician atWeimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four years later he movedto M??hlhausen as organist and the following year became organist and chambermusician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. Securing his release with difficulty,in 1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen andremained at Cothen until 1723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the Schoolof St. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of the five principal citychurches. Bach was to remain in Leipzig until his death in 1750.
As a craftsman obliged to fulfil the terms of his employment, Bachprovided music suited to his various appointments. It was natural that hisearlier work as an organist and something of an expert on the construction oforgans, should result in music for that instrument. At Cothen, where thePietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, he provided aquantity of instrumental music for the court orchestra and its players. InLeipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for the church year, laterturning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum of theUniversity, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
Throughout his life he continued to write music for the harpsichord orclavichord, some of which served a pedagogical purpose in his own family orwith other pupils.
The collections of Preludes and Fugues in all keys, major andminor, known as The Well-tempered Clavier, or, from their number, as TheForty-Eight, explore the possibilities inherent in every possible key.
Experiments in keyboard tuning in the later seventeenth century had resulted indiffering systems that, nevertheless, made the use of remoter keys feasible.
Earlier composers, including Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, Pachelbel, Pepuschand Mattheson had already made use of some form of equal temperament tuning incollections of pieces in varying numbers of keys. While the precise nature ofthe tuning system used by Bach may not be clear, his well-tempered tuning atleast made all keys possible, although, in the system of equal temperamentemployed, some keys were probably more equal than others, an effect lost inmodern piano tuning.
The Hungarian pianist Jenő Jando has won a number of pianocompetitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 HungarianPiano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the SydneyInternational Piano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all thepiano concertos and sonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos labelinclude the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's SecondConcerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete pianosonatas.