The Well-Tempered Clavier: Download an Open Version of J.S. Bach’s Masterpiece

In 2012, the Japan­ese-Ger­man clas­si­cal musi­cian Kimiko Ishiza­ka made avail­able to the world an open ver­sion of J.S. Bach’s Gold­berg Vari­a­tions per­formed on a Bösendor­fer 290 Impe­r­i­al piano in Berlin. Fund­ed by a Kick­starter cam­paign, the record­ing was released under a Cre­ative Com­mons Zero license, which essen­tial­ly put the music straight into the pub­lic domain.

Yes­ter­day we dis­cov­ered, thanks to one of our read­ers, Ishiza­ka’s fol­low-up to The Open Gold­berg Vari­a­tions — The Open Well-Tem­pered Clavier, Book 1.  Also Kick­starter-fund­ed and released under a Cre­ative Com­mons license, her new pro­duc­tion puts 48 Pre­ludes and Fugues into the com­mons. Explain­ing the impor­tance of The Well-Tem­pered Clavier, Alexan­dre Prok­ou­dine writes over at Libre Graph­ics World:

Among clas­si­cal music con­nois­seurs, the Well-Tem­pered Clavier Book 1 (WTC, or “the 48” for short) is wide­ly regard­ed as one of the most influ­en­tial works by J.S. Bach. Here is why.

For a long time instru­ments used to be tuned in such inter­vals between notes that trans­po­si­tion (play­ing a melody in a key dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed one) usu­al­ly pro­duced a melody that was clear­ly out of tune. Find­ing the right inter­vals was an inter­est­ing math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lem to solve, and it was done in the 17th cen­tu­ry by Andreas Wer­ck­meis­ter.

So while J.S. Bach did­n’t invent well-tem­pered tun­ing, the 48 was his major, if not defin­ing con­tri­bu­tion to mak­ing it pop­u­lar, as the 48 was pret­ty much The Music The­o­ry Bible for gen­er­a­tions of com­posers…

His­tor­i­cal val­ue aside, the 48 is sim­ply beau­ti­ful and ele­gant­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed music (with score laid out in up to four voic­es, yet played by a sin­gle musi­cian). If this is the first time you are lis­ten­ing to WTC, I offi­cial­ly envy you, because are about to dis­cov­er some­thing very spe­cial.

You can get the Open Well-Tem­pered Clavier as a free down­load here (please read the instruc­tions on the page), or stream it above. You can also sup­port the artist and pur­chase the down­load for a fee of your choice, or buy a CD ver­sion over on Ama­zon.

As for what you can expect from Kimiko Ishiza­ka next, look out for a record­ing of the Chopin Préludes on a Pleyel piano — the same piano Chopin played him­self all those years ago.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load the Com­plete Organ Works of J.S. Bach for Free

The Open Gold­berg Vari­a­tions: J.S. Bach’s Mas­ter­piece Free to Down­load

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach (1962)

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

JS Bach’s The Well-Tem­pered Clavier Artis­ti­cal­ly Ani­mat­ed with Puls­ing Neon Lights

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.