Bach - Prelude No. 1 in C Major

One of the most famous movements from J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, this prelude has become a standard piece not only for students but for concert pianists as well. But what's the story behind it?

Johann Sebastian Bach at the organ

When J.S. Bach began working on his epic Well-Tempered Clavier (or Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, to give it its proper German title) in 1722, chances are he wasn't thinking that it would become one of the defining musical texts in keyboard history. But, somehow, it has - and the Prelude No. 1 in C Major is where it all starts.

The Well-Tempered Clavier (there are two volumes of it, each containing a prelude and a fugue in each musical key) kicks off in C Major, the most 'natural' musical key, so he obviously made sure that the first entry is a good one. Few pieces of keyboard music sound so delicate and fragile, but there's a very Bach-ian stability to it as well.

It's a strikingly simple piece to begin with, gently phasing through different chords and registers, but it's one of those pieces that demands to be tinkered with. Consequently, you'll hear plenty of different interpretations of this much-loved work - but which one is the best to go for? Why not give this Konstantin Lifschitz version a go?

Bach, Prelude No. 1 in C - Video

Bach