Johann Sebastian Bach

The Well-Tempered Clavier Part 2

All 24 preludes and fugues in an adaptation for strings in 6 volumes, with an additional selection book by Helmut Pfrommer.
Bach finished the collection of 24 preludes and fugues in 1744, only 22 years after the (first) Well-Tempered Clavier during his Köthener years. It is one of his late works, in which he tried to structure and re-work his vast body of works (especially the piano works), and complete his work cycles with new compositions, just as found in the «Clavierübungen» (Partitas, Goldberg Variations, and others), the «Musical Offering» and «The Art of Fugue». The collection contains older movements (especially fugues re-worked, extended and occasionally transposed by Bach), new compositions, which, as noticeable in a few preludes, hint towards the «sensitive style», despite their polyphonic nature. The following order of the movement pairs through all major and minor keys in ascending semitone steps should be seen as an ordering principle, less as a «continuation» of the Well-Tempered Piano Part 1, and not at all as a second demonstration of the Well-Tempered tuning; This tuning had long been established at that point. The collection's title «Well-Tempered Clavier Part 2» only became common after Bach's death. Differences to the Well-Tempered Clavier Part 1 are less evident in the fugues, but much more in the preludes, which are now more encompassing and weigh more against the fugues.

Just as with the string adaptation of the Well-Tempered Clavier Part 1, the movements are compiled in different volumes depending on their line-up (duo, trio, quartet). About half of the prelude and fugue pairs have equal voice counts and, therefore, were left together by the editor (volumes 2, 3, and 6).

While the 3 and 4 part movements could be adapted for string trio (with the viola playing the middle part), respectively the string quartet, I tried to enable a range of duo line-ups for the 2 part movements;
- Volume 1 (violin + viola or violin + cello) contains all 2 part preludes.
- Volume 7 (2 violins or viola + cello) contains a larger selection.

With these preludes and fugues too, movements containing complex key signatures were transposed into more comfortable keys, also because the original version of many of these movements used practical keys. The duos (few) were transposed to accommodate the viola’s limited range (as a low part); however, the counterpart versions with cello instead of viola remain in their original keys.


Johann Sebastian Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Part 2 in 6 volumes, with additional selection volume.

» to the Well-Tempered Clavier Part 1