Prelude and Fugue No. 3 in C-Sharp Major
Dénes Várjon and his student Krizia Soubrouillard venture through the core fundamentals of the Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major by Johann Sebastian Bach. The pair break down the fundamental relationship between the left and right hand, and the roles they play while accompanying each other. He instructs Soubrouillard to feel the dynamic contrast in each chord as if it were ‘a children’s game.’ In other words, he implores the student to feel the relationship between the accented notes as if it were one harmony or, in his terms, “one bowing”, and to imagine the narrative between the two hands.
Never stop playing midway.
Imagine the flow before playing.
Plan your fingering in advance.
Dynamic contrast between dominant and tonic chords.
Feeling the connection between accented notes.
The Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major is the third piece of its kind in the first volume of Bach’s famous Well-Tempered Clavier. This first book of 24 preludes and fugues in each of the major and minor keys was composed in the 1720s as a pedagogical work and remains an essential part of the keyboard repertory today. Due to the seven sharps in the key of C-sharp major, this piece presented difficulty to performers at the time. The lively prelude consists mainly of sixteenth notes and has a lilting ⅜ time signature. It concludes with an unusually long improvisatory coda. The fugue is relatively simple; though its three voices weave together and modulate through many keys, it lacks the use of several common contrapuntal devices such as stretti, inversion, or augmentation. This delightful fugue is one of the most animated in the collection.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Dénes Várjon’s feedback and comments.
He won first prize in the Hungarian Radio Piano Competition, the Leo Weiner Chamber Music Competition in Budapest and the Géza Anda Competition in Zurich.
Dénes Várjon graduated from the Franz Liszt Music Academy in 1991, where his professors included Sándor Falvai, György Kurtág and Ferenc Rados. Now, Vàrjon is considered to be one of the greatest living chamber musicians, working regularly with pre-eminent partners such as Steven Isserlis, Tabea Zimmermann, Kim Kashkashian, Jörg Widmann, Leonidas Kavakos, András Schiff, Heinz Holliger, Miklós Perényi, and Joshua Bell. As a soloist, he has performed at numerous concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Konzerthaus, and Wigmore Hall. He is frequently invited to work with many of the world’s leading symphony orchestras such as the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and more. His recordings have received critical acclaim and he was the recipient of First Prize at the Piano Competition of Hungarian Radio, at the Leó Weiner Chamber Music Competition in Budapest, and at the Géza Anda Competition in Zurich. In 2020, Vàrjon received Hungary’s supreme award in culture, the Kossuth Prize.
Johann Sebastian Bach is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in music history. His incredible creative power, technical mastery, and intellect have made a lasting impression not only on classical music but also on many different modern music genres we know today.
Born in 1685 in Eisenach, Germany, Bach was a member of a very well-known family of musicians. At 18-years-old, he began working in Arnstadt where he accompanied hymns at church. His professional career as a musician would follow in Weimar, where he resided from 1708 to 1717. Here, Bach would deepen his theoretical study of composition and write most of his organ works. Moreover, he composed preludes and fugues that would be part of his collection The Well-Tempered Clavier. After building a considerable reputation in Weimar, Bach moved to Köthen to take a new role as Chapel Master. Writing less religious songs and putting more of a focus on chamber music, his compositions from this time would bring Baroque instrumental music to its pinnacle.
From 1723 until his death in 1750, Bach worked in Leipzig. First, as Thomaskantor at the Thomasschule and later as a private tutor and director of the Collegium Musicum. During this time, Bach worked on creating a repertoire of cantatas for church and revised many of his previous compositions. From 1726 onward, his keyboard works were published. His death in 1750 came to mark the end of the Baroque period and the beginning of Classicism. For many years after his passing, Johann Sebastian Bach’s works were buried with him until they resurfaced many years later and celebrated for their musical ingenuity.