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#425540 - 03/21/07 09:57 AM WTC difficulty
bobrunyan Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 81
Loc: Marysville, California
Follow up from the thread on Bartok's list:

Would anyone care to offer their rankings of the preludes by difficulty and the fugues by difficulty?

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#425541 - 03/21/07 10:37 AM Re: WTC difficulty
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18290
Loc: Victoria, BC
... assuming, of course, that we have studied all 48 thoroughly enough to make such a ranking!

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#425542 - 03/21/07 10:50 AM Re: WTC difficulty
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8934
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
... assuming, of course, that we have studied all 48 thoroughly enough to make such a ranking!
Has anyone here? That's a tough question and not one with any easy -or necessary- answer.
_________________________
Jason

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#425543 - 03/21/07 11:06 AM Re: WTC difficulty
Bassio Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 2480
Loc: Alexandria, Egypt
Regarding book 1, I guess that numbers 2,6,10 are one of the easiest

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#425544 - 03/21/07 11:47 AM Re: WTC difficulty
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8934
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bassio:
Regarding book 1, I guess that numbers 2,6,10 are one of the easiest
Did you forget the C major? Of was that just too obvious? ;\)
_________________________
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#425545 - 03/21/07 12:02 PM Re: WTC difficulty
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
Here's another list:

1. no. 15 in G (Book II)
2. no. 6 in Dm
3. no. 21 in Bb
4. no. 10 in Em
5. no. 20 in Am (Book II)
6. no. 11 in F
7. no. 2 in Cm
8. no. 9 in E
9. no. 13 in F#
10. no. 21 in Bb (Book II)
11. no. 6 in Dm (Book II)
12. no. 19 in A (Book II)
13. no. 11 in F (Book II)
14. no. 19 in A
15. no. 14 in F#m
16. no. 18 in G#m
17 no. 2 in Cm (Book II)
18. no. 5 in D
19. no. 7 in Eb
20. no. 14 in F#m (Book II)
21. no. 7 in Eb (Book II)
22. no. 1 in C
23. no. 17 in Ab
24. no. 13 in F# (Book II)
25. no. 15 in G
26. no. 12 in Fm (Book II)
27. no. 1 in C (Book II)
28. no. 24 in Bm (Book II)
29. no. 10 in Em (Book II)
30. no. 16 in Gm
31. no. 5 in D (Book II)
32. no. 18 in G#m (Book II)
33. no. 24 in Bm
34. no. 9 in E (Book II)
35. no. 4 in C#m (Book II)
36. no. 23 in B
37. no. 3 in C# (Book II)
38. no. 12 in Fm
39. no. 3 in C#
40. no. 8 in D#m (Book II)
41. no. 22 in Bbm
42. no. 17 in Ab (Book II)
43. no 4 in C#m
44. no. 8 in D#m
45. no. 20 in Am
46. no. 22 in Bbm (Book II)
47. no. 16 in Gm (Book II)
48. no. 23 in B (Book II)
_________________________

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#425546 - 03/21/07 12:21 PM Re: WTC difficulty
bobrunyan Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 81
Loc: Marysville, California
Interesting. That is the same list as Bartok devised and was talked about in the other thread, but it adds the two missing preludes and fugues: Numbers 1 and 2 from Book 1.

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#425547 - 03/21/07 04:20 PM Re: WTC difficulty
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
I found this list at another forum:

Here.
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#425548 - 03/21/07 04:35 PM Re: WTC difficulty
op30no3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 360
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by George K:
I found this list at another forum:

Here. [/b]
Ok, this deserves to be copied; it's very good stuff.

Typed by Bernhard on Piano Street:

"1. There is no evidence that Bach considered the WTC as a cycle to be performed in its entirety. Quite the opposite, all the evidence is that in his time (and his pupils according to his teaching) would not even pair the preludes and fugues.

2. The WTC – again according to all evidence available at present – was never intended for public performance (Bach composed plenty of other works for that purpose). Rather these were teaching/studying pieces.

3. However – and here there is a very wrong assumption – what they were intended to teach was most emphatically not keyboard technique, that is finger dexterity, hand independence and so on. But rather music in its most comprehensive meaning.

4. A student of Bach’s time would derive the following understandings from working on the WTC:

a. Theory and harmony: how to create motifs; how to develop them; relationship between keys; musical patterns (arpeggios, scales, broken chords, etc.); how to structure fugues, etc.

b. Composition: based on the above, how to compose one’s own prelude and fugue, with Bach’s own serving as models and inspiration.

c. Tuning. Musicians had to tune their own instruments at the time. In order to play the WTC one needed to be versed in Bach’s own well-temperament system (which by the way is lost: we do not know how he tuned his instruments). You cannot play the WTC in the usual temperaments of the time, and that was a turning point in muscal history that eventually lead to the supremacy of equal temperament (although Bach and his contemporaries did not use equal temperament as we know it today). This is particularly important for the WTC I, but possibly less so for WTC II – composed 20 years later – by which time equal temperament (well temperament) was pretty much established.

d. Keyboard technique. Which of course was catered for as well.

e. These understandings were taken for granted at the time: the division between performing and composing is a very recent phenomenon. In fact other keyboard works like the Little preludes, the Inventions and the Sinfonias shared the same aims.

From all that, it necessarily follows that if you truly want to squeeze from these pieces all that you can, the analysis and study of preludes and fugues, composing similar pieces, and improvising in their style, and even may be trying your hand at tuning a clavichord (the most common house instrument, Bach’s favourite keyboard instrument after the organ, and arguably the instrument the WTC was intended for) should make part of your study. (Several modern manufacturers of historical instruments make clavichords at a surprisingly reasonable price. If you have never played one, it is quite a shock how fragile they are, and how soft their sound is).

5. The most likely scenario for the performance for the WTC in Bach’s time would be with the keyboardist playing a selected prelude or fugue (not necessarily paired) and discerning the several voices by associating them with the hand and finger movement/distribution. The actual sound was used to delight in the blending[i/] and bringing up one voice above the others, or pointing out through accenting the entries of the theme would have been considered in bad taste and patronising. Meanwhile the students listening would [i]have a copy of the piece in their laps in order to visually follow the separate voices, while their ears would get the blending of it all. Most likely the piece would be repeated several times to let the students “hear” the several motif manipulations. The modern way of performing the WTC by playing it once and with the audience without a clue about what is going on – which forces the perform into systematically destroying the subtlety and complexity of these pieces by forcibly hammering down separate voices and showing by soundthe different entries of a theme must make Bach turn several times in his grave. These pieces are not about a “nice tune” (although they do have superb tunes). These are intricate tapestries of sound, and they are for the cognoscenti. One must study and study hard before one starts to glimpse what they are all about, let alone appreciate them properly.

This is not very different from wine appreciation. You would be unlikely to share a bottle of Chateaux Margaux with some ignoramus whose idea of a satisfying meal is a Big Mac with double chips and coke.

6. Personally, I think that the preludes are the real technical exercises (many of them are not that different in structure form Czerny), while the fugues are the musical tour –de-force, since there is no more difficult form in which to compose. There is some evidence for that in the fact that 11 of the preludes of the WTC1 first appear in the Little notebook of W.F Bach, which Bach wrote for his son’s keyboard instruction.

7. The order in which they appear (chromatically) most likely is simply because it makes it easier to find a particular prelude in the book. Bach himself almost certainly taught them in a different order. See this thread for more details:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5143.msg49995.html#msg49995

8. Summing it all up:

a. No, I would not start with the most difficult prelude and fugue. I would start with the easiest and proceed in an ascending order of difficulty, since in this way one P&F prepares for the next. The list I provided is the one I use, but it is by no means a definitive or in any way an authoritative list. In fact I would be most interested in seeing alternative listings.

b. Personally, I always learn/teach the prelude paired with its fugue. But again, this is a purely personal bias. As I said there is no evidence (even of a musical nature) that says they should be played together.

c. In learning these pieces, the best way is to do a motif analysis (since this was Bach’s preferred mode of composition) and learn first the motifs, then the separate voices and finally the whole piece. At each of these steps (motif-voices-full piece) it is usually not necessary to work HS, it is perfectly possible to do HT straightaway. But this depends on the student.

d. Technically, fingering is the most important consideration, and it will all hinge on articulation. So before deciding on fingering one must decide on articulation. This is by no means an easy task, since Bach left precious little information about it and the experts more or less all disagree.

e. Here are a few references that I found particularly useful (tip of the iceberg):

i. Ralph Kirkpatrick – Interpreting Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (Yale University Press).

ii. Paul Badura-Skoda – Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard (Oxford University Press).

iii. Frederick Iliffe: Analysis Of Bach's 48 Preludes & Fugues (2 vols. – Novello)

iv. Joseph Groocock - Fugal Composition: A Guide to the Study of Bach's '48'. (Greenwood Press)

v. David Ledbetter - Bach's Well-tempered Clavier: The 48 Preludes and Fugues. (Yale University Press)

vi. Also have a look here:
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/wtc.html

9. And last but not least, keep in mind Bach’s own words:

“Composed for music-lovers, to refresh their spirits” Cheesy

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard."
_________________________
Help people. www.thehungersite.com
Go and click the button. That's it. Just do it.

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#425549 - 03/21/07 08:05 PM Re: WTC difficulty
Monsieur_Pichon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/26/06
Posts: 306
Loc: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Great info, but in the link of pianostreet I dont see the "difficult" lisf of the WTC...Is says:


"...So here is Bach’s order (from easy to difficult) as it appears in WF book:..."

What's "WF"? xD sorry ^^

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#425550 - 03/21/07 09:34 PM Re: WTC difficulty
op30no3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 360
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by KoRnU:
Great info, but in the link of pianostreet I dont see the "difficult" lisf of the WTC...Is says:


"...So here is Bach’s order (from easy to difficult) as it appears in WF book:..."

What's "WF"? xD sorry ^^ [/b]
Maybe it has something to do with Wilhelm Friemann Bach? I know he wrote that famous table of ornaments, so maybe it's from the same thing? I never knew exactly where that table came from.
_________________________
Help people. www.thehungersite.com
Go and click the button. That's it. Just do it.

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#425551 - 03/21/07 09:55 PM Re: WTC difficulty
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
George K, Thanks for the list. As one who loves Bach, and is willing to struggle with the Preludes and Fugues in the WTC, I appreciate knowing which are less difficult than others. Gaby Tu

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#2053011 - 03/23/13 03:42 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
Timofey Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 3
Loc: Russia
My list:

1. no. 10 in Em
2. no. 2 in Cm
3. no. 6 in Dm
4. no. 19 in A
5. no. 13 in F#
6. no. 11 in F
7. no. 21 in Bb
8. no. 12 in Fm (Book II)
9. no. 15 in G (Book II)
10. no. 21 in Bb (Book II)
11. no. 6 in Dm (Book II)
12. no. 17 in Ab
13. no. 16 in Gm
14. no. 19 in A (Book II)
15. no. 9 in E
16. no. 20 in Am (Book II)
17. no. 18 in G#m
18. no. 1 in C
19. no. 13 in F# (Book II)
20. no. 23 in B
21. no. 11 in F (Book II)
22. no. 7 in Eb (Book II)
23. no. 5 in D
24. no. 1 in C (Book II)
25. no. 24 in Bm (Book II)
26. no. 3 in C#
27. no. 14 in F#m
28. no. 2 in Cm (Book II)
29. no. 15 in G
30. no. 7 in Eb
31. no. 14 in F#m (Book II)
32. no. 5 in D (Book II)
33. no. 3 in C# (Book II)
34. no. 10 in Em (Book II)
35. no. 9 in E (Book II)
36. no. 4 in C#m (Book II)
37. no. 12 in Fm
38. no. 16 in Gm (Book II)
39. no. 22 in Bbm
40. no. 23 in B (Book II)
41. no. 17 in Ab (Book II)
42. no. 8 in D#m (Book II)
43. no. 18 in G#m (Book II)
44. no. 8 in D#m
45. no. 24 in Bm
46. no. 20 in Am
47. no. 4 in C#m
48. no. 22 in Bbm (Book II)

I arranged them considering lenghts of pieces and such difficulties as strettos, subject inversions, etc
_________________________
Working on: Bach, P&F no. 12 from WTC I (Fm), Beethoven, Sonata no. 13 (Eb); Prokofiev, Sonata no. 1 (Fm) Scriabin, Etudes 8-11 (Bbm) and 8-12 (D#m); Rachmaninoff, Preludes 23-4 (D) and 23-5 (Gm); Chopin, Scherzo no. 3 (C#m).

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#2053162 - 03/23/13 08:41 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
patH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/13
Posts: 601
Loc: Germany
Are these orders the order of prelude and fugue combined? Or just the fugues?
In WTC1, the prelude in C major is probably the easiest, but the fugue is tricky.

I remember playing D major and C minor from book 1 (D1, c1), and D minor from book 2 (d2).
My order for the preludes would be (from easier to harder): c1, D1, d2. For the fugues: D1, c1, d2.
But the differences in difficulty for these three is small.
_________________________
Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.
XXXI

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#2053201 - 03/23/13 10:49 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2053205 - 03/23/13 11:09 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
Orange Soda King Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6084
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
While you're at it, rank the Scarlatti sonatas in difficulty, too.

But seriously, they are all very difficult pieces! Yes, some maybe more than others at first, but still, they are all hard!

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#2053206 - 03/23/13 11:09 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18290
Loc: Victoria, BC
This thread is almost as old as I am.
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2053207 - 03/23/13 11:10 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: BruceD]
Orange Soda King Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6084
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Originally Posted By: BruceD
This thread is almost as old as I am.


Oh shoot... I did not notice. Oops! At least I wasn't the bumper smile

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#2053411 - 03/24/13 11:19 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 2036
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
_________________________
Solo - Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Schumann Op 12 Warum, Grillen and a few short pieces by various composers
Collaboration - Concerto in C for Oboe and orchestra attributed to Haydn edited by Evelyn Rosewell and some duets


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#2054418 - 03/26/13 06:57 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: stores]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: stores
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.


thumb

According to one of his students, Chopin could play them all, from memory.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2054556 - 03/26/13 01:34 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: FarmGirl]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2392
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.


There's a lot of variety and almost no repetition in many Bach pieces. Taking a class in counterpoint will help to understand what's going on. Some folks need to be able to memorize concrete terms to keep their place.

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#2054595 - 03/26/13 03:15 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: stores]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6469
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: stores
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.


Stores - I'm impressed - REALLY IMPRESSED !!!!!! That's quite an accomplishment !! thumb
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2054631 - 03/26/13 04:27 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: FarmGirl]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19642
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.

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#2054799 - 03/26/13 08:37 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: pianoloverus]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2392
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.


It's kind of a litmus test, isn't it? It took me a very large amount of work to play WTC II G minor for a competition. The memorization was there, but it's still always nerve-wracking.

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#2055054 - 03/27/13 11:35 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: jeffreyjones]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 2036
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.


It's kind of a litmus test, isn't it? It took me a very large amount of work to play WTC II G minor for a competition. The memorization was there, but it's still always nerve-wracking.


I agree. It seems that even hitting one wrong note throws me off in performance situation. I have to perform WTC II f minor on stage at a performance center in May. I can play it by memory at home but I don't think it's enough for Bach. Need to really dissect this I think. Studying counter points makes sense. I am contemplating adding terrace dynamic to help my memory for the fugue.
_________________________
Solo - Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Schumann Op 12 Warum, Grillen and a few short pieces by various composers
Collaboration - Concerto in C for Oboe and orchestra attributed to Haydn edited by Evelyn Rosewell and some duets


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#2055191 - 03/27/13 04:20 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: jeffreyjones]
johnlewisgrant Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/17/07
Posts: 519
Loc: canada
Technically you can rank them, no problem.

Musically it's impossible... once you get into "How do I make these sound REALLY GOOD?" all bets are off.

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#2055249 - 03/27/13 05:56 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
LadyChen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
I find Bach difficult to memorize, however once it is securely memorized, I never forget it, probably due to the type of memory work that is required for this music. I can still play the inventions and sinfonias that I memorized as a kid, and the prelude and fugue that I'm working on now is the most securely memorized piece in my program. It just took a long time to get there smile.

As for rating the difficulty .. well, we've had this discussion many times on PW. We all have different strengths and weaknesses as pianists and musicians and will find different things easy or difficult. And I agree with other posters -- they are ALL difficult! But aren't they just amazing to play once you've put the work in?

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#2055770 - 03/28/13 04:28 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
BWV 846 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/12
Posts: 103
Loc: Silver Spring, Maryland
Does anyone know of a ranking that treats the preludes and fugues separately rather than together (even though they are separate pieces of music)? Some keys may have a difficult prelude and a (relatively) easy fugue, or vice versa.

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#2055771 - 03/28/13 04:32 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: BWV 846]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2392
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: BWV 846
Does anyone know of a ranking that treats the preludes and fugues separately rather than together (even though they are separate pieces of music)? Some keys may have a difficult prelude and a (relatively) easy fugue, or vice versa.


Henle Verlag ranks them on a scale from 1-9.

http://www.henle.de/en/detail/index.html?Title=The+Well-Tempered+Clavier+Part+I+BWV+846-869_9014

http://www.henle.de/en/detail/index.html?Title=The+Well-Tempered+Clavier+Part+II+BWV+870-893_9016

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#2055889 - 03/28/13 09:31 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]
BWV 846 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/12
Posts: 103
Loc: Silver Spring, Maryland
jeffreyjones, that's very helpful. Thanks.

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