I recently received the following note from a professional colleague and friend and share his thoughts on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach with you.
“Jeannine: I always enjoy your monthly newsletter, and somehow this June issue made me realize what a wonderful way you have chosen to spend your life. I can’t imagine a better field to work in than with Johann Sebastian Bach in his entirety—a very big man in a very big life.
Returning to serious practicing after such a long time away from it—I mean the kind of practice which attains and maintains virtuosity—I have wonderful decisions to make. I have decided, after very little contemplation, that a return to Bach almost exclusively will be the thing I want most as an opening wedge.
My first thought was to tackle the second book of the WTC, because I’ve learned, or taught, only a few of those pairs of Preludes and Fugues, but I realized that I needed to get back into technical shape first, and the better way was to return to Book One. All of a sudden it seemed very clear to me that the purpose of the first book was to train the player at the keyboard, in the ways of keyboard technique. The first few are the most obvious—this must be where Czerny got his idea of making technical exercises into musical form. I have discussed this with a few other pianists whom I respect, and no one else has thought of this. It’s obvious to me. The most obviously valuable in developing keyboard fluency is the C Minor and the C# Major. There are others, further along in the book, but the next one that comes to mind without a conscious search is Bb major, D Major, D minor, F Major, G major—and it goes on and on. Bach was the first one to discover how the hand fits the keyboard, and to write for it that way.
Book Two of the WTC assumes that one already has keyboard fluency, and here we encounter the artistic triumphs.”