Prelude in B minor

Prelude in B minor

BWV 923 performed by Jacques Ogg
at home in Bunde, The Netherlands

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Sensitive notes

An early work shines through a haze of questions.

Is this prelude actually finished? This is a crucial question when looking at this piece from Bach’s time in Köthen, just before he started as the cantor of St Thomas’s, in Leipzig. What should we make of the last 26 bars consisting only of arpeggios? Could Bach have notated this series of broken chords as a sort of sketch, in order to work out the music in more detail later? Did he decide to give free rein to the performer? Or was he just crazy about the sound effect? It’s an enigma!

If we regard the ending with the arpeggios as a separate section, then this prelude has three sections. The first is a wonderful example of a written improvisation, similar to the much better known Chromatic Fantasia, BWV 903. Bach takes plenty of time to explore the whole keyboard and all its nuances of timbre, from high to low. The tempo then accelerates abruptly and fast little motifs tear through the whole sound spectrum – left, right, left, right. Meanwhile, the texture thickens from two to four parts and we reach a surprising cadence… and then come those curious arpeggios. Every keyboard player does their own thing with them: rhythmic or free, undulating or more defined. Jacques Ogg, too, chooses his own interpretation.

Incidentally, various copyists have linked this prelude to the fugue BWV 951, on a theme by Albinoni, which is also in B minor. It is a combination often found on CD, although the idea does not appear to come from Bach and, as Ogg puts it, no ‘wonderful theses’ have yet been written about it. Moreover, the earliest known source places the prelude directly after a copy of the earliest Wohltemperirte Clavier. Maybe as a reserve work?

Prelude in B minor
harpsichord works
not after 1725

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Jacques Ogg

“It is such wonderfully expressive music.”

Vocal texs




  • Release date
    21 October 2021
  • Recording date
    10 March 2018
  • Location
    Bunde, The Netherlands
  • Harpsichordist
    Jacques Ogg
  • Harpsichord
    Cristofori, approx. 1710
  • Director
    Jan Van den Bossche
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera and interview
    Gijs Besseling
  • Producer
    Marco Meijdam
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