“Prelude in C Major,” J.S. Bach, played by Laura Dean
What do piano lessons, a wedding, and the 2022 movie TÁR have in common? The answer – Bach’s “Prelude in C Major,” the first piece from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), a two volume collection of 24 preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys dating back to 1722. The WTC is considered one of the most important works of keyboard literature. Bach’s “Prelude in C Major” is an enduring prelude played by beginning piano students as well as seasoned professionals. I’ve had the pleasure of both performing this piece for special events and teaching the piece to piano students of all ages. The prelude remains familiar, meditative and comforting.
I recently played the piano at the wedding of two dear friends, Mara and Matt, at the Novelty Hill-Januik Winery in Woodinville, Washington. The couple selected Bach’s “Prelude in C Major” as the prelude to the ceremony. The piece was a lovely choice to set the tone for such a beautiful event. Elegant, timeless, and tranquil.
In contrast, the 2022 psychological thriller, TÁR, features the same piece performed by Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). In a particularly tense scene, Lydia Tár invites a master class participant to sit by her on the piano bench as she demonstrates the prelude. She commands that the student listen to the questions present in Bach’s composition as she intensely plays the piece with a variety of articulations and expressions, all the while making the student feel more and more uncomfortable. The particular scene was featured in this article by the New York Times.
I invite you to listen to a variety of pianists play “Bach’s Prelude in C Major,” each with their own sound, including Glenn Gould (listen carefully and you can hear him vocalizing in the background), Lang Lang, and Angela Hewitt.