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Bach: Small Prelude in C Major

Piano Sheet Music to Download and Print or to View in Mobile Devices

Johann Sebastian Bach :
Small Prelude
Small Prelude   in C Major by Bach piano sheet music
Key: C Major Year: -
Level: 3 Period: Baroque
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Instructive - all parts (226 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Scanned score (346 kB)

A small prelude that sounds big

This Prelude is one of 12 ‘small preludes’ written separately at different times in Bach’s life for pedagogical purposes. It gives an excellent opportunity to listen for dynamic effects in Baroque keyboard music.Dynamic marks are rare in Bach (those in the scanned score were added by the editor); Instead, dynamics are built into the music through changes of register and texture.

The first important change occurs when the left hand takes over the main broken chord motive in measure 4. Five measures later, the broken chords are back in the right hand and the sequence of the first three measures are repeated, but with greater intensity because the notes are transposed up to the dominant key of g major. They are also accompanied by quavers in the left hand instead of the held octave of the first four measures.

Near the end, Bach changes the texture almost at every bar-line, which adds to the sense of a long crescendo throughout the piece. After a measure where both hands play the broken chord motive, the right hand suddenly bursts into sixteenth-notes, before the piece ends like a chorale. All these perfectly balanced changes of rhythm, pitch and texture give Bach’s music all the contrast and variety it needs, whether performed on the harpsichord or the modern piano.  

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Practice & Performance Tips:
This prelude starts with a C-pedal point, which reminds us of the organ. Imagine the sound of an organ when you start this prelude. This pedal point lasts for 3 measures!

Can you put a bracket above the first 8 notes written on the treble staff ? These notes form the thematic material that Bach used to compose the entire prelude. What is the chord outlined by these notes that you bracketed? It is a C7 chord. Study the next group of 8 notes. It forms an F chord, which is followed by a G7 chord. Bach uses imitation on the left hand in m. 4. It is the same thematic material presented by the right hand but the C chord in m. 4 is followed by a D chord in m. 5.

In mm. 8-12, the thematic material goes back to the right hand while quarter notes on the left hand add rhythmic vitality to the never-changing G pedal. The mordent highlights this G pedal and helps give variety to the theme. Practice mm. 9-12 without the mordent first. Then, add the mordent but drop the low G. In other words, do not play the G on beats 2 and 4 and check if your right hand can continue playing the thematic material without any stops or bumps. If there are no bumps, false accents or hesitation, add the low G that you dropped, playing... Sign up for a Gold membership to read the practice tips.

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