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Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846

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Title: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846  
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Subject: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Germany
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Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846

The Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV , is a keyboard composition written by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is the first prelude and fugue in the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, a series of 48 preludes and fugues by the composer. An alternative version of the prelude, BWV 846A, is found in the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.



The prelude is 35 bars long and consists mostly of broken chords. Below are the first four bars of the prelude:

The first four bars of the prelude. About this sound   

The prelude continues like this with different variations on harmony, and change of key. The prelude ends with a single C major chord.

The "Schwencke measure" About this sound   

Some earlier editions of the prelude contain an extra bar between bars 22 and 23 known as the "Schwencke measure", a measure apparently added by Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke in an attempt to correct what he allegedly deemed a "faulty" progression, even though this sort of progression was standard in Bach's music.[1]


The fugue is 27 bars long and is written for four voices. It starts with a 2 measure subject in the alto voice, which can be seen below:

The subject of Fugue No. 1 in C Major, in the alto voice. The soprano voice joins the alto at the end of the subject. About this sound   

The alto voice is joined by the soprano at the end of the subject, which signals the beginning of the answer in the dominant key (G major). The answer is repeated in the tenor and bass voice, respectively, when they join. The piece then modulates through various related keys, with the subject being repeated in each of the four voices. The piece eventually ends up back in the home key. It ends with each voice stopping at a note and holding it until the end, forming a C major chord.


Gounod's Ave Maria, arranged for piano and cello. Performed by John Michel

Problems playing this file? See .
Charles Gounod composed a melody that was designed to be based on the prelude; a setting of that melody to Ave Maria is popular. The edition of the prelude used by Gounod contains the Schwencke measure.[1]

Mstislav Rostropovich compared this Prelude to the introductory bars of Bach's famous Prelude of Cello Suite No. 1, in a video named Rostropovich interprets Bach, filmed in 1991 at the Basilique Sainte Madeleine in Vézelay, France.

"Repent Walpurgis", the last track on the debut album by progressive rock group Procol Harum contains an arrangement of the prelude by band leader Gary Brooker.[2][3]

Further media

Full length audio of the prelude or fugue


See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^


  • Bach, Johann Sebastian. "Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major." The Well Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2. Ed. Saul Novak.

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