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On-line Book Review



Dimension: 24 x 17 x 3.0 cm
TITLE Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier I: Tradition · Entstehung · Funktion · Analyse. Ulrich Siegele zum 70. Geburtstag. Hrsg von Siegbert Rampe.
PUBL. DETAILS München-Salzburg: Musikverlag Katzbichler, 2002. 520p. Paperback. Euro 48,-
ISBN 3-87397-145-3
TO ORDER Musikverlag Katzbichler, Zirnberg 5, D-94344 Wiesenfelden, Germany.
Tel: (+49) (0)9964 601 690; Fax: (+49) (0)9964 601 691 E-Mail:
DESCRIPTION Conference report as Festschrift: collection of highly specialized research papers on Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier I.
WORKS COVERED BWV 4, 8, 21, 66, 71, 73, 82, 96, 131, 139, 184a, 196, 202, 204, 210, 232, 244, 245, 524-30, 531-5, 537-8, 540-52, 562-66, 568, 572, 574, 579, 582, 589, 591-2, 599-650, 651-668, 769, 772-801, 806-17, 819, 825-31, 846-894, 896, 899-904, 906, 910-16, 923, 944, 951, 961, 963, 967, 971, 992-3, 997, 999-1012, 1014-19, 1027-30, 1032, 1034-5, 1040-3, 1049, 1052, 1061, 1064, 1079, 1080, Anh. I 192.
READERSHIP scholars working in the keyboard works of J. S. Bach, in particular Well-Tempered Clavier I.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION The most significant research publication yet for the studies of WTC I

T his impressively thick and grand volume contains eleven articles of high scholarly value. Of these nine are papers read at the symposium on the Well-Tempered Clavier I, which was held from 11 to 15 October 2000 in Köthen. This is the place where the work was conceived, and there is apparent connection between the place and the subject topic.
Furthermore, the dedicatee of this Festschrift, Ulrich Siegele (for his 70th birthday), is an eminent scholar whose analytical approaches to the fugues of WTC I are well known. This volume also includes his latest thoughts on this topic ---a 150-page article, by far the longest article in this volume---in which he examines in various ways how one can categorise Bach’s fugues in terms of their construction.

As the subtitle of the book ‘tradition, origin, function and analysis’ suggests, this book covers a wide range of topics, with one omission – issues relating to performance practice. This popular as well as controversial topic, as the editor admits, was avoided deliberately, to maintain the focus of the conference. Still, it is surprising to see such diversity as well as depth in approach to the single musical work that we find in this volume.


Beißwenger, Kirsten, "Rezeption und Verbreitung des Wohltemperierten Klaviers I zu Lebzeiten Johann Sebastian Bachs. Mit einem Exkurs über den Schreiber Anonymus Vr bzw. Anonymus 12 von Yoshitake Kobayashi."

Hinrichsen, Hans-Joachim, "Zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Wohltemperierten Klaviers I."

Geck, Martin, "»Gothische Tempelwerke« oder »Charakterstücke höchster Art«? Das Wohltemperierte Klavier in der Sicht Robert Schumanns."

Rampe, Siegbert, "Sozialgeschichte und Funktion des Wohltemperierten Klaviers I."

Synofzik, Thomas, "»Fili Ariadnæi«: Entwicklungslinien zum Wohltemperierten Klavier."

Franklin, Don O., "Das Verhältnis zwischen Taktart und Kompositionstechnik im Wohltemperierten Klavier I."

Sackmann, Dominik, "»À la recherche du Prélude perdu«. Die Präludien im Wohltemperierten Klavier I und ihre Stellung in der Geschichte der Gattung."

Schröder, Karl-Ernst, "Zur Interpretation der Präludien und Fantasien von Silvius Leopold Weiss."

Ruf, Wolfgang, Polyphonie in Bachs Sonaten für Violine solo.

Schmoll-Barthel, Jutta, "Wege, eine Fuge Bachs zu verstehen."

Siegele, Ulrich, "Kategorien formaler Konstruktion in den Fugen des Wohltemperierten Klaviers."

The most significant research publication yet for WTC I

The book opens with source studies: the first article by Beißwenger surveys the surviving copies of WTC I that were made during Bach’s lifetime, attempting to paint a fascinating picture of Bach, WTC and his students through the careful discussion of evidence and the established facts (most of which came from Alfred Dürr and Yoshitake Kobayashi’s recent work). While pointing out the current limitation of our historical knowledge, she offers many fascinating hypotheses, e.g. why WTC was not published, why Altnickol copied WTC II twice.

Hinrichsen then examines the selected early printed editions of the WTC how the work was received in the last two centuries. This is a fascinating paper: he identifies how various editions were received and in turn influenced musicians. Still, we do not find answers to oft-raised questions such as Neefe’s role and the origin of the so-called ‘Schwencke’s bar’ as well as the background of Chopin’s use of non-standard key-arrangement (which he may have taken from the key scheme found in the edition published by Imbault in c.1800 or one of its reprints issued by Janet & Cotelle).

There were many more editions than hereby mentioned by Hinrichsen that when the research is extended in the future, we may learn somewhat different reception history of WTC I.

For me, the most interesting contribution was Rampe’s piece on ‘social history and function’. There are some overlaps with both Beißwenger and Synofzik’s papers, but Rampe’s powerful contribution is clear: by examining from a broad historical context of Bach’s chosen title ‘Das wohltemperierte Clavier’, he revisits comprehensively the issues that have been discussed many times in the past (e.g. tuning, the establishment of tonality, and the reaction by Bach’s contemporaries, instruments, keyboard lessons) with fresh insight.

It seems an impossible task to evaluate in a space of few months the real significance and impact of these scholarly essays. I am sure that the scholars engaged in the study of WTC I will get hold of this volume to examine them for themselves. It is clear to me at least that this is the most significant research publication yet for the studies of WTC I.

Published on-line on 8 December 2003

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