Five little preludes

Five little preludes

BWV 939-943 performed by Benjamin Alard
Paushuize, Utrecht

  • Menu
  • 1. BWV 939 (C major)
  • 2. BWV 940 (D minor)
  • 3. BWV 941 (E minor)
  • 4. BWV 942 (A minor)
  • 5. BWV 943 (C major)

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Gobstoppers for beginners

Bach gave his pupils something to measure themselves against

Bach composed various works for the purpose of teaching, and he obviously enjoyed challenging beginners. In the teaching booklets for his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann and his wife Anna Magdalena, he collected all sorts of compositions, some of which he wrote himself. In both cases, the pieces are tailored to the level of the pupil concerned, without making any concessions to musicality.

The Five little preludes are also presumed to have originated for teaching purposes, although it is not clear when Bach wrote them or for whom. The originals have been lost, while the copies date from 1726 at the earliest. From this, we can deduce that the pieces could have been composed as early as 1717, but possibly also twenty years later. The last Prelude is said to have been written by Bach in Arnstadt already. And there is some debate about whether Bach actually wrote these five preludes himself. However, few people still doubt it, if only for the fact that the pieces are included in the extremely popular beginners’ book published by Hans Bischoff in the second half of the nineteenth century, Kleine Präludien und Fughetten.

The mastery of the little pieces lies in their combination of apparent simplicity and musical richness. They can be played very nicely with little technical prowess, whereas when played by a professional they reveal a surprising depth. This allows the pieces to be used at different stages of the learning process, thus revealing different shades of colour every time, like a gobstopper.

five little preludes
harpsichord works
1703 (BWV 943) and between 1717 and 1739

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Benjamin Alard

“Benjamin Alard thinks it's very important to play such little 'trifles'. Why?”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    12 June 2015
  • Recording date
    1 March 2015
  • Location
    Paushuize, Utrecht
  • Harpsichordist
    Benjamin Alard
  • Harpsichord
    Joel Katzman after Joannes Couchet, ca. 1650.
  • Film director and editor
    Lucas van Woerkum
  • Music recording producers
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Camera
    Robert M. Berger
  • Camera assistants
    Stef van Wijk, Uriel Matahelumual
  • Grip
    Jeroen de Haan, Thijme de Zoet
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Best boy
    Thomas Jeninga
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Producer concert
    Erik van Lith
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Acknowledgements
    Lex Martens and Provincie Utrecht

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