The eighteen Little Preludes
are among the most valuable pieces ever written for beginners. They form a bridge between the easiest pieces of the Anna Magdalena Notebook
(1725) and the Two-part Inventions, giving the player a wonderful introduction to voice imitation, pedal points, cadenza-like passages, and basic ornamentation. They cover many different moods, from the affirmative (all three preludes in C major), to the tender (the C minor minuet, BWV924), the improvisatory (BWV940), the joyful (BWV927 and 937), and the very grand (BWV928). The C minor prelude, BWV999, was originally written for the lute. Many of them are far from easy (the A minor, BWV942, for instance), and require quite complicated fingering (BWV943). Even in these little pieces, big decisions have to be made concerning tempo, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, and timing, and this challenges the teacher as much as the student. Bach wrote them for his son Wilhelm Friedemann and other pupils, but never grouped them into any particular arrangement. Like the French Suites, many of them survive only in copies made by another hand. There are several traditional groupings of which I have chosen one, changing the order of the first six to make a more pleasing progression in performance. For me they recall fond childhood memories, and are as fascinating now as they were then.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 1995