Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude BWV 922

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Prelude, BWV 922 by Johann Sebastian Bach, transcribed for concert band by David Whitwell. The Prelude, BWV 922, is an extraordinary example of minimalism. Bach's seemingly endless variations on so simple a figure is a textbook case of harmonic development.

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Product Description

Pre­lude, BWV 922
Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach (1685–1750)
Tran­scribed by David Whitwell (1937–)

Date: 1708–17
Instru­men­ta­tion: Con­cert Band
Dura­tion: 8:20
Lev­el: 5


I dare say most of us in school were made famil­iar with pri­mar­i­ly the church music of J. S. Bach, togeth­er with a few key­board and vio­lin solo works. Grad­u­al­ly, as one has time, one dis­cov­ers the remark­able vari­ety of music con­tained in that vast out­put by the great mas­ter. Some of the ear­ly more Roman­tic com­po­si­tions are a sur­prise as we tend to for­get that Bach did not always look like his Leipzig por­traits, but was also once young and Roman­tic.

A recent dis­cov­ery, and shock, for me was the Pre­lude, BWV 922, an extra­or­di­nary exam­ple of min­i­mal­ism. And as is usu­al­ly the case, when one has come to con­clude that one has heard all there is to hear in some style, such as min­i­mal­ism, along comes Bach who casts the entire field into sub­servience by the genius of his har­mon­ic vocab­u­lary. His seem­ing­ly end­less vari­a­tions on so sim­ple a fig­ure is itself a text­book of har­mon­ic devel­op­ment.

To the eye this com­po­si­tion may look dif­fi­cult, but because of the slow tem­po it is not. Even the bravu­ra begin­ning wood­wind pas­sage, which may look impos­si­ble to a con­duc­tor, is only typ­i­cal of the rapid dia­ton­ic pas­sages every wood­wind play­er plays every day in warm­ing up. Thus in this pas­sage we see not Bach’s chal­lenge, but a tes­ti­mo­ni­al of his own pow­ers of obser­va­tion.

David Whitwell
Austin, 2014