Johann Sebastian Bach
Prelude No.7: from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 852

Arranged by Stephen Denroche

Traditional brass quintet (trumpets in C)

Vancouver, BC, , Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2018

Score and parts


Book 1 of J. S. Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier was written in 1722 for solo keyboard. Selections from this collection have been transcribed for many instruments and chamber ensembles. This arrangement is not the first for brass quintet, but it may be the first arrangement presented in the key of C major. David Baldwin’s 1985 arrangement preserves the original key of E-flat major.

It is clear why the lowered key of C major makes perfect sense for a brass quintet arrangement: it puts the material in a comfortable register for all of the instruments in the ensemble. The tessitura of the trombone part spans from A to f1 and the other four parts reflect a similar tessitura, although the first trumpet and tuba/bass trombone parts extend a third higher in their respective ranges. In addition, the arranger has made excellent choices in matching the appropriate brass voice to each melodic line. While range is accessible, the melodic movement presents considerable challenge to the chamber ensemble. For these reasons, this arrangement is most appropriate for an experienced collegiate level quintet.

This particular prelude translates well to the brass quintet because it contains active melodic lines in distinctly different registers, and at the same time it contains sustained notes. Every member of the quintet has ample opportunity to play melodic material. In addition, the brass instruments’ ability to sustain provides for a full texture, giving it an organ-like quality. The challenge for the musicians comes when the active melody must be traded between parts seamlessly, and this happens at least once per measure!

The only issue found in the arrangement involves a lack of indication that the brass player should play legato. While Bach did not write slur markings in his original, it is typically implied that a keyboardist would play a run of sixteenth notes in a connected manner. The vast majority of professional piano recordings of this prelude corroborate this fact. If the arranger wishes to achieve a similar articulation in the brass quintet, he should indicate this by including slur markings throughout.

Reviewer: Sarah Paradis
Review Published January 31, 2019