Revisiting the reception of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier II in Pre-Classical Vienna

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the articles published in 1998 (Bach) and 2000 (Music & Letters), I discussed the then known surviving manuscript copies of the Well-Tempered Clavier originating from the Viennese region in the late 18th century, which were, incidentally, all fugue-only collections. Studying their musical text revealed not only that they were closely related, but also how the Viennese musicians including Mozart seriously engaged in the editing of Bach’s fugues, altering the fugal texture and harmony according to their stylistic ideal. They form a unique branch of the work’s transmission in the second half of the eighteenth century. Among the surviving sources is a copy of 24 fugues from WTC II in the hand of Johann Traeg who later sold Bach’s two books of WTC splitting into two 24-Fugue-only collections and one volume of 48 Preludes. Until recently, no reliable specimen of either the fugues from WTC I or the preludes was known to have survived, and for this reason, it was not possible to study where the Viennese model initially came from and what form it did. Nor was it possible to determine the reason for the splitting of the collection. Very recently a preludes-only copy, which shares the unique physical features of Traeg’s copies, has resurfaced in Krumlov, the Czech Republic. Textually, however, it belongs to a different branch of sources that is connected with a music dealer in Hamburg Johann Christoph Westphal who sold MSS copies of WTC in late 1770s and early 80s. This paper reassesses the early Viennese reception of WTC taking into account this new information.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Musical Offering
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Gerard Gillen
EditorsKerry Houston, Harry White
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherFour Courts Press
Number of pages41
ISBN (Print)9781846826580
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Bach, Johann Sebastian
  • The Well-Tempered Clavier
  • Reception History
  • Mozart
  • Johann Traeg


Dive into the research topics of 'Revisiting the reception of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier II in Pre-Classical Vienna'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this