Bach loved numbers and symbolism. (So do I!) In an earlier post, I touched upon Bach’s use of gematria, an ancient form of substituting numbers for letters. Using this method, the letters B-A-C-H add up to 14.
The Fugue from the Prelude and Fugue in C major in Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, shows Bach’s further fascination with the number 14. There are 14 notes in the theme of this first fugue. Bach then artfully repeats and overlaps his 14-note theme again and again in different keys.
If that’s not enough to keep us interested, the theme occurs 24 times in this fugue. Furthermore, it just so happens that there are 24 fugues (one in each of the major and minor keys) in the cycle of the Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 1). Scholars believe that this is no coincidence: Bach intentionally set out to write 24 preludes and fugues in this cycle.
Oh, and did I mention that in spite of — or because of? — these self-imposed intellectual limitations, Bach nonetheless creates a sublimely beautiful collection of keyboard works? The Well-Tempered Clavier represents Bach at his truly brilliant best!