part of what I send as general arguments on this case to Paul (Poletti)
If I understand this right, I agree, that one should NOT play it neither
on the keys of f#-minor and shift the keyboard to have it soundlike f-
or on the keys of f-minor/g-minor and shift the keys to have it sound
Either it should sound like f#-minor and is played in f#-minor
or in g-minor (f-minor maybe) and sounds like g-minor (f-minor)
Being a musicologist or music historian, I see that we have not all the
information we need. Especially info is missing by Bach himself. And his
pupils, etc. all had their own agenda, as we have our own and add it to
the piece to construct each our own version. If we are lucky we might
have 1 % of the info we needed. And who dares to judge from such weak
evidence with certainty. So we all come up with our own solutions which
will be individual in our reconstruction of the missing 99 %.
In this case we have the piece handed down to us in f#-minor - but no autograph.
The 2 or three low B#'s support f#-minor as a likely choice being the
original key. F-minor seems less likely, because it will get a low B,
even if there is a version in one source, but that source seems to be
But the treble stops much more frequently at b'' [without c'''] This
leaves again g-minor a chance to fit nicely in with a treble compass to
c'''. Anyway a fully chromatic bass octave is needed [in both cases]
(used down to C#, of course).
Harmonically the needed keys go from f, c... - ... fxx, cxx in f-minor
(in g-minor then: gb, db...- ... g#, d#) - so meantone or modified
meantone is certainly excluded in any case - but the range provides us
both times with interesting tensions and more relaxed sounds. If we
don't regard the compass of an instrument down to C as an important
question, f-minor also is interesting, but it comes extremely far on the
side of the flats: fb.
The musical subjects are by no way foreign to g-minor (as a reminiscent
transposed dorian mode - would be interesting to anlayse Bach from that perspective).
And we have a few very imprecise statements about how Bach liked his
tuning, and at which lifetime, which instrument - for which pieces. All
kinds of speculation are possible.
Taking all in account I give f#-minor some preference, but I wouldn't
rule out g-minor.
Imagine that we had one or two pieces from the WTC not in their WTC-keys
but only in the original "easy" key. Wouldn't we say that they are
convincing pieces - if they are convincing as such. And vice versa...
Hearing and playing the f#-minor in f-minor or g-minor doesn't make the
piece less interesting, or contrary more interesting. I regard the
temperament in this respect as a secondary or even a ternary factor in
regarding to the interest in this composition - though I think it in
practice the selection of a good temperament for such a piece is of main
interest - which is paradox.
But Bach transposed pieces as we know, for obvious reasons especially
many more pieces for the harpsichord than in the organ. He seems not to
have found important, what many today think important: the aspect of
"key characteristics". Maybe even the concept of "affect"supposedly
going with the key was of minor or even no interest to him. Yes,
Reincken, Mattheson and a few wrote about key characteristics and
affect, but we don't know about Bach's exact relation to that thought.
The question from the players side might be answered different - but
wasn't Bach praised for very unusual features f. ex. his using the thumb
in a new way. This might have added a bit to the excitement of trying
this aspect of "craftsmenship" and creating more complicated pieces by transposing.