Steps in Mastering Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 553 for Organ by JS Bach

The Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 553 is included in the collection of 8 Short Preludes and Fugues formerly attributed to J.S.Bach. Although the author of this piece remains unknown it is generally referred as a composition of the Bach circle, possibly by Johann Ludwig Krebs. In this article, I would like to give you the exact steps which will help you master this prelude and fugue.

1. Analyze the form and tonal plan of the piece. Play this composition a couple of times so that you could understand the structure of the prelude and fugue. The prelude is in a binary form, which means that it consists of two parts, each of them repeated. The first part ends with the cadence in the key of G major, which is the Dominant of C major. The second part also has a cadence in A minor, and ends in C major. When analyzing the fugue, count the appearances of the subject or the theme. Note the keys that the theme is in.

2. Write in fingering and pedaling. Playing with correct fingering and pedaling has many advantages, it gives you much precision and clarity. Therefore, when you discover some trouble spots in the music, it is best to write in the correct fingering so that you will never have to think about it again. I recommend writing in the pedaling on every note. Use alternate toe technique and avoid using heels.

3. Make sure the articulation is precise. Once you have fingering and pedaling in place, you have to decide on the correct manner of articulation. In the Baroque period, the normal way of articulating notes was so-called ordinary touch or articulate legato. This means that the notes in the piece must be somewhat detached. However, they should be played in a singing or cantabile manner.

4. Decide on ornamentation. The trills in this piece should be played from the upper note. Although there are only one trill noted in the prelude and three in the fugue, you should feel free to add similar ornaments in every structurally important place of the piece. In other words, the trills can be played in every cadence.

5. Decide on tempo. The normal tempo in this piece should be somewhere around 80 in the metronome. However, for practicing purpose use much slower tempo. Always try to feel the strong and weak beats of the measure.

6. Decide on registration. The registration for this prelude and fugue should be Organo pleno, or principal chorus with or without 16' in the manuals. On some modern organs with very screamy mixtures, this registration works best if you add 8' and 4' flutes.

7. Practice the piece. When practicing this prelude and fugue, you can work in fragments of 4 measures or even shorter. When these fragments become easy, combine the fragments and practice longer episodes. However, whenever you make any mistake, go back a measure or two, correct it and play this fragment a few times.

8. Memorize the piece (optional). Although memorization is not required, you will play with greater confidence if you know the piece from memory.

These are the steps necessary to play and learn this composition. If you follow them precisely, you will be rewarded by the wonderful impact the music can have on the organist.

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