Performance Thursday, November 13, 2014 | 8 PM

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The New York Times wrote of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s Bach, “… the music had a severe and wondrous beauty.” Aimard performs the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, a set of 24 preludes and fugues in the 12 major and minor keys. Here, Bach takes an academic tuning exercise and creates one of the great keyboard works, renowned for its intellectual depth and technical brilliance.


  • Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Piano


  • BACH The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I


Bach's Art of the Fugue - Contrapunctus 9. a 4 alla Duodecima
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Piano
Deutsche Grammophon

At a Glance

Tonight’s recital features one of the most iconic works in Western art. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier —once described as “the Old Testament of music”—is a remarkable example of a technical exercise that rose far above its status. With the advent of a new tuning system that largely evened out the individual tones of the chromatic scale, composers were able to exploit all 12 major and minor keys. In response, Bach wrote a brilliant sequence of preludes and fugues in every major and minor key on the keyboard. Intended at first for the harpsichord, The Well-Tempered Clavier has been played in various arrangements since its creation, and revered by numerous composers, instrumentalists, and audiences.

Uniform though its stream of paired preludes and fugues may seem when listed on a concert program, Bach nonetheless offers an extraordinary variety of styles and moods across “the 48,” of which we hear the first 24, composed in the city of Köthen in 1722. Beginning with the seraphic C-Major Prelude (the basis for Gounod’s 19th-century setting of “Ave Maria”) and closing with the epic B-Minor Fugue, this first book—used variously as a teaching aid and a compositional manual—defies categorization. Quite simply, it numbers among the finest musical works ever created.
This performance is part of Keyboard Virtuosos II.