Bach: Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C major, BWV 846 Analysis



Bach Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C major BWV 846 Analysis 1


Bars 1-11: Period I. Bars 1-4 establish the key of C major and from Bar 5-9, it moves away from the key of the Dominant. Ends with Perfect Cadence in the key of the Dominant.
Bars 11-19: Period II. Starting in the Dominant key, it gently returns begins to return to the Tonic key at Bar 17. Ends with Cadence in the key of the Tonic.
Bars 20-35: Period III. In reality a long Coda. Dominant Pedal from Bars 24-31, followed by a Tonic Pedal from Bars 32-35.


This Prelude consists, mainly of a simple series of chords, expressed by a constant reiteration of the characteristic figure (seen in the two measures above) which is repeated twice in every bar until the close, when it is expanded for variety into a freer and wider-ranging Arpeggio.

The Harmony changes with exception at every bar.

Dignity and solidity are secured by the sostenuto figure in the Bass part.

The texture of the whole Prelude is homogeneous.

Its form is evidently an artistically matured version of a familiar type of extemporaneous preludizing by the use of a chain of Chords.


Bach Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C major BWV 846 Analysis 2



Bars 1-2: Subject in Alto [Key: C].
Bars 2-4: Real Answer in Treble [Key, G].
Bars 4-5: Answer in Tenor [Key, G].
Bars 5-7: Subject in Bass [Key: C].
Bars 7-8: Subject in Treble [Key: C].
Bars 7-8: Answer in Tenor, in Stretto with the previous entry in Treble [Key, G].
Bars 9-10: Answer in Alto [Key, G].
Bars 10-12: Subject in Bass [Key, G].


Bars 10-12: Answer in Alto, in Stretto with the previous entry in the Bass [Key, G].
Bars 12-13: Subject in Tenor. Full Close in A minor [A minor].
Bars 14-15: Subject in Alto, resumed at once in C major [Key: C].
Bars 14-15: Answer (incomplete) in Tenor, in Stretto [Key: C].
Bars 15-16: Answer in Bass [Key, G].
Bars 15-16: Answer (incomplete) in Treble, concluding the first complete Stretto [Key, G].
Bars 16-17: Subject in Treble [Key: C].
Bars 16-18: Answer in Alto [Key: C].
Bars 17-18: Answer in Tenor [D minor].
Bars 17-19: Subject in Bass, concluding the second complete Stretto [D minor].
Bars 19-20: Subject in Tenor [D major].
Bars 19-20: Subject in Alto, in Stretto [Key, G].
Bars 20-21: Subject in Bass (incomplete) [Key, G].
Bars 20-22: Answer in Treble, concluding the third complete Stretto [Key, G].


Bars 21-23: Answer in Tenor, and Close in C major [Key: C].
Bars 24-25: Subject in Tenor on a Pedal C, which continues to the end of the Fugue [Key: C].
Bars 24-26: Answer in Alto, in Stretto [Key: F].
Bars 24-25: Answer (incomplete) in Treble [Key: F].
Bars 25-27: Coda, built mainly on the concluding semiquaver (eighth note) figure of the Subject, and a figure derived from the ascending figure of the Opening [Key: C].


Exposition: Bars 1-6
Counter-exposition: Bars 7-10.
Episodes: None.
Stretti: 6.
Tonic Pedal: Bars 24-27.
Coda: Bars 25-27.


  1. This Fugue has a “real” Answer, and would be styled as a “real” Fugue.
  2. It has no Counter-subject.
  3. The order in which the voices enter in the Exposition is unusual, as the Subject and Answer do not regularly alternate, but follow one another in the order: Subject, Answer, Answer, Subject.
  4. In the Counter-exposition (Bars 7-10), the voices enter in the same order as the Exposition.
  5. The Fugue has three complete and three incomplete Stretti. The Stretti at Bar 7, Bar 10, and at Bars 24-25 are incomplete, because all the voices to not take part in them. The complete Stretti in which all the voices take part are in Bars 14-15, 16-18, and 19-21.