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Bach's "Well-tempered Clavier": The 48 Preludes and Fugues Hardcover – 29 Oct 2002

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (29 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300097077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300097078
  • Product Dimensions: 27 x 17.6 x 3.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 909,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book sets out to analyse the Well-tempered Clavier, a very significant work in the repertoire. It starts by breaking down the full title of the work, providing a broad yet often very detailed contextual history that elucidates the work and indeed Baroque keyboard music more generally, including as it does information about various keyboard instruments and Bach's experience with them, tuning systems, keys, and the genres of prelude and fugue (considered individually as well as in combination). Subsequently, there is an analysis of each prelude and fugue, highlighting character, features of interest, context, as well as details of the harmony and counterpoint. Whilst the analysis of the fugues is somewhat less systematic than Prout's, the remit is wider (Prout analyses the fugues largely in terms of the fugal apparatus, and is more exhaustive in that aspect than Ledbetter).

The level of detail is, in general, greater than that of Schulenberg's book (on Bach's keyboard music), but if you are undertaking a thorough analysis of a specific Prelude and Fugue, it is probably a good idea to consult both Ledbetter and Schulenberg (and if specifically considering the fugal structure and techniques, it is also worth consulting Prout).

For me, the best feature was Appendix B, which explained concisely in a single page "The problem of temperament", in a manner that was both clear and specific. After reading this short explanation, everything made sense to me, after years of trying to understand temperament. If you find the mathematics behind temperament confusing, then I would strongly recommend you read this page (then read chapter 2 for more details of the history of tuning systems).

Whilst I do not fully agree with everything Ledbetter says in this book (e.g.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Bach-Lover 8 Aug. 2009
By M. J. Sweet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Purchased this as a gift for a Bachophile friend, who reports that is the best work on the subject of "the 48" and vastly informative and interesting. This is obviously a book for those who have some knowledge of musical theory, and know and play this work, to add to their delectation. Bach rules!
5.0 out of 5 stars ... amount of musical knowledge to fully appreciate (I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that lacks musical training) 30 Aug. 2015
By krisenda lobato - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An enjoyable read that does require a decent amount of musical knowledge to fully appreciate (I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that lacks musical training). This book was helpful for better understanding the musical culture surrounding the creation of the Well Tempered Clavier. For instance, the book discusses previous works that attempted to use most, or all, the musical keys (and why), and relates various preludes and fugues of Bach's WTC to other fugues and works of other composers. The book discusses the various tuning systems in use at the time, and what Bach may have used (suggesting Bach favored a form of well-temperament at the time of WTC1, and perhaps equal temperament by WTC2). The book also discusses Bach's teaching program and pedagogical aims. The second half of the book gives an indepth look at each individual prelude and fugue - very useful for understanding the pieces and how one might attempt to realize them at the keyboard.
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written, fully researched book. A must ... 3 Aug. 2014
By Frank Van Nostrand - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well written, fully researched book. A must have for those who want a full picture of what went into Bach's compositions and what he intended.
11 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a lot of facts, but a few gaps 13 May 2007
By Goggle-Eyed Slewfoot - Published on Amazon.com
The first half of the book is related only marginally to the purported topic of the book. Here the author discusses Baroque keyboard instruments, Baroque tuning systems, Baroque musical forms, and Bach's pedagogical technique, with only occasional allusion to the Well-Tempered Clavier.

The second half of the book is more in line with what I expected. This is where the author analyzes each movement one by one. However, he does not hit every section of every fugue. I was disappointed with the discussion of the f minor and A major fugues in Book I and the G major and g minor fugues in Book II.

Moreover, the author uses several terms which he does not define. I don't understand the terms rhetoric, verset, galant, stile antico, empfindsam, monochord, Gedackt, and Pythagorean third, so I guess I'm not good enough to join the author's club.
11 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a lot of facts, but a few gaps 13 May 2007
By Goggle-Eyed Slewfoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first half of the book is related only marginally to the purported topic of the book. Here the author discusses Baroque keyboard instruments, Baroque tuning systems, Baroque musical forms, and Bach's pedagogical technique, with only occasional allusion to the Well-Tempered Clavier.

The second half of the book is more in line with what I expected. This is where the author analyzes each movement one by one. However, he does not hit every section of every fugue. I was disappointed with the discussion of the f minor and A major fugues in Book I and the G major and g minor fugues in Book II.

Moreover, the author uses several terms which he does not define. I don't understand the terms rhetoric, verset, galant, stile antico, empfindsam, monochord, Gedackt, and Pythagorean third, so I guess I'm not good enough to join the author's club.
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