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Classical Guitar Lessons: Bach: Prelude from BWV 998

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Hello, this is a lesson on
the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro,
BWV 998 by Johann Sebastian Bach.
And Prelude, Fugue and Allegro is a,
is a real masterwork even by Bach's lofty
Just a, a, this, this main lesson on the
piece is meant to give
you more of an overview of the prelude.
There's another lesson, which goes very
much in-depth to just, I mean, going
measure by measure through the entire
prelude to reflect the overall structure.
It's, it's good to watch this lesson first
to give you kinda more of a,
of a birds-eye view of the, the layout of
the piece.
There's only two things that I think
really are essential to understanding
this piece.
I mean, of course, all the details, it'll
seem infinite.
But the, the main two things to digest
from this lesson is that there,
there's a three note motive if you will.
That, that unites the entire work Prelude,
Fugue Allegro.
And it's,
this three note motive presented right at
the very beginning of the prelude.
[SOUND] It's basically the,
[SOUND] the first scale degree in the
tonic of D major.
[SOUND] Going down to the leading tone,
the 7th scale degree and back up to the,
the D.
This three note, these three notes are the
first three notes of the fugue subject,
which we'll cover in another lesson.
on and so
The, it was not not normal for Bach to
write just a three movement piece.
Were more accustomed to seeing these dance
suites of six or seven movements.
The fugue itself is in a three part
structure it's called a da capo fugue.
That was very rare for
Bach to write a fugue in that kind of
three part structure.
So, there's a healthy obsession with the
number three.
And [SOUND] in fact I'm just walk you
through a little bit of the structure.
So going back to my original point,
the, the two essential things you have to
remember is that the three
note motive here in the prelude becomes
more insistent as the piece progresses.
There by heighten the dramatic tension of
the piece,
which eventually becomes resolved.
When, when we return to D major after
visiting a few substantial key areas.
The other thing that I want you to digest
from the video is that each of
those key areas that we visit through this
piece become progressively longer.
Also, by design in an effort to heighten
the dramatic tension of the piece.
So just a quick walk-through here will
reveal that.
[SOUND] If you want to get into more, more
into depth and hear me kind of go on and
on, measure by measure, there's another
video, there's another lesson for that.
But here, I'll just play through and kind
of walk you through this.
one through three.
The three note motive travels through the,
[SOUND] the, the triad of D major.
[SOUND] First at the root level, [SOUND]
5th level and
then the 3rd measure at the 3rd, the major
3rd level and it's three measures long.
Get used to this this idea of, of the
three going on.
Some episode material, if you will.
And A major presentation of the three note
Again, at the root level of A major
[SOUND] the 5th [SOUND] and
the major 3rd covering the triad.
Notice here that immediately the,
the material between A major presentation
of the,
of the, of the three note motive.
And the ensuing B minor presentation,
which is coming up in measure 14.
There's more material, more measures
added, including a sequence right here,
which is three measures long.
And at the end of that sequence,
we come to the B minor presentation here.
Again, also at the root level.
5th level.
The, the fifth of the triad.
And the third.
And you can expect there to be even
greater number of measures between the B
minor key area and
the modulation to the next key area in G
major than,
than before, than in the previous key
[SOUND] So, where am I here?
And we now have
an arrival in G major.
Where once again, the three note motive is
in the [SOUND] root [SOUND] and third
This lesson is on the prelude
from BWV 998, the prelude
in allegro by Johan Sebastian Bach.
This is a real masterwork even by Bach's
lofty standards,
this is a late period work.
And rather than a dance sweet, it's a more
of a cerebral type
of composition where some thematic
material and
motifs are introduced right in the prelude
are carried through all the way to the
other two movements [COUGH].
And what's striking about this piece is
how immediately beautiful,
and melodic, and almost that has a
pastoral quality
[SOUND] particularly to the Prelude and
There's a little bit more of activity and
vitality in the allegro.
But all three movements of the Prelude
Fugue & Allegro are bound
together by this three-note motive, this
three-note cell.
In fact, there's quite an,
a healthy obsession with the number three
[LAUGH], that Bach has in this piece.
This tonic D coming down by a half step
and then back up to the D.
This, the three kind of
theme throughout is reflected in the fact
that the piece is three movements.
The central movement, the fugue is a da
capo fugue which was very rare,
it was very rare for a Bach to write da
capo fugues.
Da capo fugue is a type of fugue where,
of course, like any other fugue, a subject
is introduced and then developed but
then there's a second section in the
middle where the fu,
where the subject is developed more in
this case with a doubling of the rhythm.
And then a recap, almost like a sonata
form, almost like a early kind of
embryo of sonata form the A section, or
the original large section where the fugue
was first introduced and developed comes
back again just like the beginning.
So, creating a three-part structure.
So, and of course, the allegro's in 3/8,
the prelude is in 12/8 which is a quarter
note pulse but a kind of a four beat feel.
But the divisions, the sub-divisions of
each of those four pulses are,
of course, divided into 3/8 notes.
So again, the unity that this piece has
throughout is pretty staggering.
But enough of that.
Let's actually get to the, some of the,
more the interpretation
of just the prelude itself which the, it's
all you really have to know.
I don't mean to oversimplify it because
there is some mystery to this piece as far
as all the details, but the overall
structure of the piece,
all you have to know is that it goes into
a few different key areas.
After the introduction of just the tonic
in D major and
the introduction of the material.
There's your three note motive.
And after that, it's you,
the listener hears
various chords be in broken style.
Broken style are still brise where the
harmonic information as well
as the melodic information is revealed in
this kind of broken chord manner.
So, of course, three measures are
introduced here
in the very beginning where this three
note motive happens.
So, I'll kinda over emphasize, if you
through the playing just so you hear that.
So there you have it, the first three
measures presenting
the three note motif in, along the triad
of the D major.
Then after that, some developmental
material or
episodic material is presented, and then
immediately hear just a few measures later
in A major
Once again, it takes three measures to
present this three note motive,
and it goes through the three notes of the
triad of A Major.
From there, each section, each time that
that three measure those three phrases
with the three note motive are presented,
more time progresses or
more measures are added creating something
of a progressive structure.
And so, what I said earlier about all you
need to really know,
that's what I mean by that.
All you need to know is that, and that the
tension, this act of expanding
each of those key areas heightens the
tension of the piece more and more.
Also, this three note motive becomes more
as we move along to the different
So if we go from here
the A major presentation of this material
Moving along.
And we come to our first of two sequences
in the prelude where we hear our
three note motif in the soprano.
And, of course, that sequence is, you
guessed it, three measures long.
So we have,
and if you can try to bring out almost
this two line texture in the stem up
starting at eleven, it's good to note
in fact, all these stem up notes are not
one line but really two.
And if I can break this down for you here
the 11,
going from measure 11, we have something
of a soprano line and
then an alto line which is acts as
something of a glue.
That holds things together and keeps the
eight note subdivision going.
But, if you can really think of it like
With just the other eighth notes kind of
filling in there to fill it out,
that's a good thing to do.
The three note motive starts to become
more and more insistent, as a way of
increasing the tension.
So this is a perfect example right here,
we hear in measure, 27.
So, that's a good queue for you when you
hear this more insistent three note motive
to really start to crescendo through those
moments where he has that right here.
I mean it's all the same three notes,
in fact those notes aren't even moving,
they're always A,
they're in that phrase, A, G sharp, A.
Culminating in the second sequence
of the piece.
It's recommended to maybe,
if you wanna come down here for a little
bit to start another build,
because you may run out of room
dynamically on,
on the guitar, if the guitar has a smaller
dynamic range.
So I, I like to kinda come down here a
little bit and kinda reset, dynamically.
Again, notice the insistence of the three
note motive happening, more and more
We're coming to the peak of the prelude of
the climax of it here.
Gonna arrive on G minor a very strong
chord for D,
D major, it's not related to the key.
So, it's another hint that this should be
really that
your loudest playing here, your fullest
This next
section is a cadenza, which is very common
in bach preludes.
So, you can go ahead and
play this freely with a bit of Chello
Rondo into the middle and
then some Paolo Rotondo at the end of it
like this.
Notice that that cadenza is made up
entirely of the three note motive.
So I try to do the left hand fingering
where at least some of the notes overlap
each other.
It really adds a lot of depth to, to the
layering of this three note motive.
And then that cul, culminates in this
this formata.
Again, very typical to have this moment
right near the end of the bach prelude.
Very strong chord,
D dominant seventh with the seventh in the
You can add a little trill there or a
A lot of guitarists ask me about the
flourish that I apply to this.
And it goes like this.
I'll play it very slowly.
Okay I'm just a, a gentle acceleration in
the middle, and
then a gentle return out of it.
The tension, I can not bare the tension
any longer.
And then we finally arrive full circle at
D major,
where we hear the presentation of a three
note motive again.
Again, there's, for more in-depth analysis
or with, some slightly more detail,
you can check out that other lesson, and
then there's also a performance lesson
video where, you'll, you'll basically just
hear a run through of the entire piece.
So, enjoy.
Thank you.
Then, of course, that brings us to our
B-minor treatment of the three note
And then, from there, you will develop the
Okay and at this point,
at measure 25, we arrive at the G major.
Key area, where and notice that what the
amount that
I've just played has more measure, has
more music in it than
the previous time we heard the B minor key
And this is done on purpose by Bach.
You, and you can expect that, if you study
your score from this arrival at G major,
from G major back to the photonic will be
even more measures of music in between.
And that is all by design to increase the
tension of the piece as each key area is
So then I'll play from here.
You'll also notice now that in G major, by
the time that we get to the G major key
area, your gonna start hearing this three
note motive become more and
more insistent, and that's another part of
the design of the piece.
the presentation of the three measures
In, this time, a G major.
That's a new wrinkle right there,
the third measure of that G major, key
area presentation.
Now he's actually just starting to layer
the three the three the three note motive
See what I mean about it getting, becoming
more insistent?
This brings us to our second sequence.
And in this second sequence,
note that our melodic material, or the
moving material, containing,
of course, the three note motive, is in
the alto, and that the,
the soprano line kind of fills out the
rest of the eight note subdivision.
So, once again
the way I broke, broke the part a little
bit, the the previous sequence at measure
11, this sequence beginning at measure 30.
You should really
primarily be hearing and
thinking of
And that the soprano line actually kind of
interjects at the end of each of those
measures in the fourth, in the the fourth
beat, like this.
Like that.
So that's just a breakdown of the soprano
on alto, layering of, of that particular
Okay now, sort of coming into the, the
finish of this piece.
You'll, again you hear this three note
motive become more insistent in the middle
And that's a good, that's a good cue for
you to crescendo through those moments
where that's, where that's happening.
Continue crescendoing through here.
G minor
Key dominate 7.
And then finally an arrival, this is the
climax of the piece right here,
arrival at G minor, very remote key not
related to D, D major.
So the tension is at an all time high in
terms of the harmonic tension.
then we have something of a cadenza and
you should play this very cadenza-like.
This is very typical of, of most Bach
So feel free to accelerando through this,
these measures,
measures 38 and 39, and notice that the
entire two measures is made
up only of this three note motive being
You can almost imagine Bach at a, at a
organ, just, you know,
just you know, just playing nothing but
this three note motive.
In fact,
one, two.
One, two, three, four, five, six.
Six, six times we hear that.
[SOUND] And I try to do the fingering in
the left hand so
as much as possible,
when the next three note motive comes
that I'm actually ringing it over the
previous voice as much as possible.
It can't be done all the way through, but,
but you'll see I'll do this slowly.
I have to do a one, one,
one there to get that one.
But it's worth it.
It's a little bit more difficult, but it's
very, it's really worth it.
It app-,
it really just by overlapping those
three note lines just even by one note
makes a difference.
It adds a lot of depth to the layers.
D dominant seven with the seventh and
the bass and, and a pause and a formata.
This is the tension peak of the, of the
So I, I get asked a lot about my, the, the
flourish here at measure 40.
So I'll just show it you really, slowly.
Once again.
This one as a guide
finger to finish, here.
I'll play it.
Just this is what it sounds like.
So it should,
you should telerondo through the middle of
it and
then, and then ritardando at the end of
And then.
And then of course we, there's,
there is resolution finally coming back to
the tonic.
Same two measures we heard in
in measures one and two.
The difference
here then to
close the piece
So, there you have it, just an analysis of
the prelude nine,
nine, eight from prelude fugue allegro.