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Bach Series

Paul Dyer Harpsichord

Paul Dyer performs the Prelude No. 1 in C major & Improvisation, BWV 846 from JS Bach's The Well‑Tempered Clavier, Book 1

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)


In the nineteenth century, only a small number of music lovers, mostly in Germany, knew anything of JS Bach and his musical works. The 1829 performance of St Matthew Passion in Berlin, organised and directed by Felix Mendelssohn, began the slow Bach revival.

Throughout Bach’s life his reputation as an extraordinary keyboard player dominated any renown as a composer and teacher. After many decades of intense research and study of his music, Bach is now considered one of the most genius composers of all time, if not the greatest. It would be interesting to know if certain opinions held by Bach’s contemporaries and other influential people, such as Frederick the Great, may have differed in this light.

Even before the last years of his life, JS Bach was regarded as an outdated musician. On his visit to Frederick’s court in Potsdam in 1747 he was referred to as the 'Old Bach', with old meaning both elderly, and severely out of fashion. Nevertheless, his keyboard works, and The Well-Tempered Clavier in particular, survived him and were closely studied and highly regarded by composers like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and many more.

Both volumes of The Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC) consist of 24 preludes paired with 24 fugues. They are arranged in chromatic order starting with C major, then progress through each subsequent key: C minor, C-sharp major, C-sharp minor and so on. The first volume was composed in 1722 "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study", with the second volume following some 20 years later.

Immediately recognisable, this opening prelude from the first volume of the WTC exists in several earlier versions: it first appeared in 1720 in the Notebook for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, compiled by JS Bach for his 9-year-old son, and the prelude was also copied by Bach’s second wife Anna Magdalena in her 1725 Notebook.

Although devoid of any melodic line and constructed from repetitions of the same simple motif – an arpeggiated chord – Bach exploits unexpected harmonic turns to produce a masterful underlying voice-leading that is not as regular as one might anticipate. This may explain why the prelude also served as the basis for the famous Ave Maria by Charles Gounod which he arranged in 1853.

Gounod’s simple melody, largely consisting of long held notes, comfortably sits above Bach’s arpeggiated material.  The listener is transported, bar after bar, phrase after phrase without any jarring dissonances, awkward leaps, or jaggedness. Each new phrase feels as if it follows a logical harmonic progression. Interestingly, only one extra bar of ‘accompaniment’ was added by Gounod while creating his arrangement, a true testament to Bach’s masterful control of harmony and counterpoint.

Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020




Discover More

Bach's Universe

Enter Bach’s universe this August. 

Bach's Universe is an exclusive new digital-only Baroque music film by Paul Dyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Viewers will enter the heart of the orchestra with stunning cinematography that offers unique insight into the interplay and invention of Baroque music performance.

Directed by Stef Smith, this cinematic new production stars radiant German Baroque violinist Jonas Zschenderlein who delivers an impassioned performance of Bach's Violin Concerto in E major in his Australian debut. 

Spanning intimate instrumental works and immersive orchestral offerings, Bach’s Universe includes the timeless Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 and Prelude in E minor, BWV 855 from the first book of The Well Tempered Clavier.  

Buy your tickets at: https://brandenburg.com.au/concerts/2021/bachs-universe/

Photo Credit Georges Antoni 2019


Paul Dyer is one of Australia’s leading specialists in period performance.

Paul co-founded the Brandenburg in 1989 after completing postgraduate studies at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague and has been Artistic Director and conductor since that time. He is a performing artist comfortable in his unique music arena – whether working in ancient music, contemporary music, opera, with artists such as circus performers, contemporary dance, or visual art. His busy performing schedule in Europe, Asia, the USA and Canada over the years has synchronised perfectly alongside his bold stage work in Australia.

Paul is an inspiring teacher and has been a staff member at various conservatories throughout the world. In 1995 he received a Churchill Fellowship and he has won numerous international and national awards for his CD recordings with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir, including the 1998, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2010 ARIA Awards for Best Classical Album.

Paul has performed with many international soloists including Andreas Scholl, Cyndia Sieden, Marc Destrubé, Hidemi Suzuki, Stefano Montanari, Xavier De Maistre, Shunske Sato, Maurice Steger, Riccardo Minasi, Yvonne Kenny, Emma Kirkby, Philippe Jaroussky and many others. In 1998 he made his debut in Tokyo with countertenor Derek Lee Ragin, leading an ensemble of Brandenburg soloists, and in August 2001 Paul toured the orchestra to Europe with guest soloist Andreas Scholl. In 2015, he was featured on the soundtrack of the James Bond 007 movie, Spectre.

A passionate cook, entertainer, foodie, teacher, swimmer and traveler, he is friends with people and artists from Istanbul to India and Japan to Italy, and creates a unique platform for overseas performing artists to work with him and the Brandenburg in Australia. Among his list of achievements, Paul was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013 for his ‘distinguished service to the performing arts in Australia’. Paul is Patron of St Gabriel’s School for Hearing Impaired Children. In 2003 Paul was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his services to Australian society and the advancement of music, and in 2010 Paul was awarded the Sydney University Alumni Medal for Professional Achievement.

View an interview with Paul Dyer here

Biography: Paul Dyer, 2020
Image Credit: Georges Antoni, 2019 


The harpsichord Paul Dyer is playing was generously donated by the late Tom and Jenny Parramore in 2001. It is a single manual Flemish harpsichord, Hubbard Moemans model, by Peter Watchorn ca. 1980. The compass with an unusual short octave: GG-CC – e”’, has keys made of bone and ebony and Seahorse papers in the keywell and inner case rim.

The case is painted dark green with gilt mouldings on stained beechwood, with a sitka spruce soundboard and a beech bridge. The three stops: 2 X 8’ and a buff, are completed with Delrin jacks and plectra. This harpsichord sits on a Flemish style baluster stand.

Image Credit: Gary Heery, 2012


The image above of the first page of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major and comes from an autograph manuscript dating to 1722-1723. The manuscript is currently held in the Berlin State Library.

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 


Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Cöthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 


APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

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Jonas Zschenderlein performs the Siciliana & Presto from JS Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor for solo violin, BWV 1001


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Marianne Yeomans performs the Sarabanda from JS Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, transcribed for viola in G minor


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Matthew Greco performs the Allemanda & Double from Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002


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Mikaela Oberg performs the Allemande from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013


Tommie Andersson Gallichon

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Ben Dollman Baroque Violin

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Ben Dollman performs the Largo & Allegro assai  from JS Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C major for solo violin, BWV 1005


Monique O'Dea Baroque Viola

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Melissa Farrow Baroque Flute

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Melissa Farrow performs the Sarabande from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013


Paul Dyer Harpsichord

BACH Nº 13
Paul Dyer performs the Allemande from JS Bach's French Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, BWV 815


James Armstrong Baroque Violin

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James Armstrong performs the Preludio from JS Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006


Monique O'Dea Baroque Viola

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Monique O'Dea performs the Double  (from Sarabande)  from JS Bach's Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002, transcribed for viola in E minor


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Joanna Butler performs the Sarabande from JS Bach's English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808


Matthew Greco Baroque Violin

Matthew Greco performs the Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV 1003


Anthea Cottee Baroque Cello

Anthea Cottee performs the Courante & Sarabande from JS Bach's Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007


Mikaela Oberg Baroque Flute

Mikaela Oberg performs the Corrente from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013


Marianne Yeomans Baroque Viola

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Anthea Cottee Baroque Cello

Anthea Cottee performs the Allemande from JS Bach's Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007


Melissa Farrow Baroque Flute

Melissa Farrow performs the Bourée Anglaise from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013


Tommie Andersson Gallichon

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