Music written in all major and/or minor keys
There is a long tradition in classical music (as well as in other genres) of writing music in sets of pieces that collectively cover all the major and minor keys of the chromatic scale. These sets typically consist of 24 numbers, one for the major and minor key of each key signature. Well known examples include Johann Sebastian Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier and Frédéric Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28. Such sets are often organized as preludes and fugues, or designated as preludes or études.
Sets that comprise all the enharmonic variants include 30 numbers. Some composers have restricted their sets to cover only the 12 major keys or the 12 minor keys; or only the flat keys (Franz Liszt's Transcendental Études) or the sharp keys (Sergei Lyapunov's Op. 11 set). In yet another type, a single piece may progressively modulate through a set of tonalities, as occurs in Ludwig van Beethoven's Op. 39, two Preludes modulating through all 12 major keys. Some partial sets such as these were intended to complement existing sets, whether written by the same composer or someone else (as in the case of Lyapunov's Op. 11 set of Transcendental Études in the sharp keys, which was designed to complement Liszt's flat-key cycle).
The bulk of works of this type have been written for piano solo, but there also exist sets for piano 4-hands; two pianos; organ; guitar; two guitars; flute; recorder; oboe; violin solo; violin and piano; cello solo; cello and piano; voice and piano; and string quartet. There are examples of attempts to write full sets that, for one reason or another, were never completed (Josef Rheinberger's organ sonatas, Dmitri Shostakovich's string quartets, César Franck's L'Organiste).
The sections below deal (unless stated in the section heading) with completed sets covering all 24 keys.
- 1 Well-known examples
- 2 Multiple sets
- 3 The Rachmaninoff case
- 4 Bach and his precursors
- 5 After Bach
- 6 Modulating through all 12 major keys
- 7 Works covering all church modes
- 8 Enharmonic choices
- 9 The canonic 24 keys
- 10 Order of keys in published works
- 11 Works out of scope
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Some of the best known examples of works covering all 24 major and minor keys are:
- Johann Sebastian Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier (1722 and 1742; two separate sets of 24 Preludes and Fugues, together known as "the 48")
- Frédéric Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1835–39)
- Charles-Valentin Alkan: 25 Preludes, Op. 31 (1847), 24 Études in all the major and minor keys, Opp. 35 and 39 (1848 and 1857)
- Alexander Scriabin: 24 Preludes, Op. 11 (1893–95)
- Sergei Rachmaninoff: 24 Preludes, Opp. 3/2, 23 and 32 (1892; 1901–03; and 1910)
- Paul Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis (1942, twelve keys)
- Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 (1950–51). He also wrote a separate set of 24 Preludes, Op. 34, in 1933.
There is a hybrid case. Franz Liszt's 12 Transcendental Études, S. 139 (1826–52) covered the natural and flat keys[a] only. He originally planned to write the full suite of 24 études, but apparently abandoned this plan. In 1897–1905, Sergei Lyapunov wrote his 12 Études d'exécution transcendante, Op. 11, which employed only the remaining sharp keys,[b] and was dedicated to Liszt's memory. In the sense that Lyapunov "completed" what Liszt had originally set out to do, these two sets could be considered to form a unified set of 24 Transcendental Études traversing all the keys.
There are many other lesser-known examples, some of which are detailed below.
A number of composers have not been content with just one set of works covering all the keys of the scale.
Others who have written more than one set include:
- Charles-Valentin Alkan: 25 Preludes; 49 Esquisses; 24 Études (published as separate sets of major-key and minor-key études)
- Lera Auerbach: 24 Preludes (piano); 24 Preludes (violin and piano); 24 Preludes (cello and piano)
- J.S. Bach: 2 sets of 24 Preludes and Fugues, which were separated by 20 years, but they are usually considered a single work, The Well-Tempered Clavier, and referred to as "the 48"
- David Cope: 48 Preludes and Fugues
- Carl Czerny: at least three sets of piano exercises (Op. 380), preludes (Op. 501), and preludes and fugues (Op. 856)
- Friedrich Kalkbrenner: 24 Études; 24 Preludes
- Nikolai Kapustin: 24 Preludes in Jazz Style; 24 Preludes and Fugues
- Joseph Christoph Kessler: 24 Études; 24 Preludes
- Craig Sellar Lang: 2 books of 24 preludes and fugues
- Jaan Rääts: 24 Marginalia; 24 Estonian Preludes
- Igor Rekhin (b. 1941 in Tambov, Russia): 24 Preludes and Fugues for guitar; 24 Caprices for solo cello
- Josef Rheinberger: 24 Fughettas, Op. 123; he also intended to compose 24 organ sonatas, but died having completed only 20.
- Christian Heinrich Rinck: 30 Preludes; Exercises in all the keys
- Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes, Op. 34; 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87; he also set out to write 24 string quartets all in different keys, but completed only 15 of them
- Sir Charles Villiers Stanford: 2 sets of 24 Preludes, Opp. 163, 179
- Louis Vierne: 24 Pièces en style libre; 24 Pièces de fantaisie
- Vsevolod (Petrovich) Zaderatsky: 24 Preludes; 24 Preludes and Fugues (written in prison, without a piano, on telegraph forms)
Alkan seems to have also started a fourth set: the 11 grands préludes et un transcription du Messie de Hændel, Op. 66, are a set of 12 pieces that cover all the keys that have one to six flats (although Alkan replaces G-flat major with its enharmonic equivalent using sharps, F-sharp major). However, this set was never completed. Alexander Scriabin wrote 90 preludes for piano (50 in major keys, 31 in minor keys, and 9 in indeterminate keys). These contained only one complete set of Preludes in all 24 major and minor keys (Op. 11), but he seems to have started another set (spread over 4 opus numbers) before the key relationships broke down.
The Rachmaninoff case
Rachmaninoff seems to be the only composer who did not originally set out to write a set of works in all 24 keys. His Prelude in C-sharp minor was written in 1892, as the second of a group of five assorted piano pieces all with different titles, published under the name Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3.
In 1903 he published 10 preludes as Op. 23. They were all in different keys, none of which was C-sharp minor, but it is not known whether he fully intended by this time to eventually complete the full complement of 24 preludes. There is nothing to suggest this from the order of the keys (F-sharp minor, B‑flat major, D minor, D major, G minor, E-flat major, C minor, A-flat major, E-flat minor, G-flat major). There is one pair of parallel keys (D minor/major) and two pairs of relative keys (E-flat major/C minor; and E-flat minor/G-flat major), the remaining four preludes satisfying neither criterion. However, by choosing 11 different keys for his first 11 preludes, he was at least keeping his options open.
By 1910 Rachmaninoff had definitely decided to complete the set, publishing 13 preludes, Op. 32, covering the remaining 13 keys (C major, B-flat minor, E major, E minor, G major, F minor, F major, A minor, A major, B minor, B major, G-sharp minor, D-flat major). In this opus there are four pairs of parallel keys (E, F, A, and B, major/minor) and one relative pair (B major and G-sharp minor).
Bach and his precursors
Johann Sebastian Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, two complete sets of 24 Preludes and Fugues written for keyboard in 1722 and 1742, and often known as "the 48", is generally considered the greatest example of music traversing all 24 keys. Many later composers clearly modelled their sets on Bach's, including the order of the keys.
It was long believed that Bach had taken the title The Well-Tempered Clavier from a similarly-named set of 24 Preludes and Fugues in all the keys, for which a manuscript dated 1689 was found in the library of the Brussels Conservatoire. It was later shown that this was the work of a composer who was not even born in 1689: Bernhard Christian Weber (Wolferschwenda 1 December 1712 – Tennstedt 5 February 1758). It was in fact written in 1745–50, and in imitation of Bach's example. While Bach can safely claim the title The Well-Tempered Clavier, he was not the earliest composer to write sets of pieces in all the keys.
As early as 1567, Giacomo Gorzanis (c.1520–c.1577) wrote a cycle of 24 passamezzo–saltarello pairs. In 1584, Vincenzo Galilei, the father of the great astronomer Galileo Galilei, wrote a Codex of pieces illustrating the use of all 24 major and minor keys.
In 1640, Angelo Bartolotti wrote Libro primo di chitarra spagnola, a cycle of passacaglias that moves through all 24 major and minor keys according to the circle of fifths. Also in 1640, Antonio Carbonchi wrote Sonate di chitarra spagnola con intavolatura franzese for guitar.
In 1702, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer wrote a cycle of 20 organ pieces all in different keys in his Ariadne musica. These included E major as well as E in Phrygian mode and again in Dorian mode, but not E minor per se. They also excluded C♯/D♭ major, D♯/E♭ minor, F♯/G♭ major, G♯/A♭ minor, and A♯/B♭ minor. Bach modelled the sequence of his 48 Preludes on Fischer's example.
Around 1704, Johann Pachelbel completed his 95 Magnificat Fugues, which covered all eight of the church modes.
In 1749, the year before Bach's death, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, himself the inspiration for Bach's Goldberg Variations, wrote his own 24 polonaises for keyboard, one in each of the major and minor keys.
|Étienne Ozi||Nouvelle méthode de basson||bassoon*||1787||(* or 2 bassoons; or bassoon and cello or double bass)|
|Johann Christian Kittel (1732–1809)||16 Preludes in all the keys||organ||?||16||16u||These preludes span C to G, major and minor. Kittel evidently intended to write 24 preludes, in honour of his teacher J.S. Bach, but the work was left unfinished.|
|Lev Gurilyov||24 Préludes et une Fugue||piano||pub. 1810||25||24||5C[c]||First mentioned in a MA thesis by Matthew J. Roy, 2012. Further comment on style and importance in an article by Wendelin Bitzan.|
|Muzio Clementi||Préludes et exercices dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs||piano||1811||49||24||[d]||These were appended to the 5th edition of Clementi's Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Piano Forte There is one prelude and exercise for each key, and the set concludes with a "Grande Exercice" that progressively modulates through all the keys but in a somewhat different order than the foregoing; further, the "Grande Exercice" uses G-flat major where the individual pieces use F-sharp major.|
|Philip Seydler (1765–1819)||XXIV grands Caprices pour une Flûte||flute||1810–12||24||24||5C[c]|||
|Johann Nepomuk Hummel||24 Preludes, Op. 67||piano||1815||24||24||5C[c]||The first such collection for keyboard in which the preludes are neither paired with fugues nor serve as an introduction to a suite. Some of these preludes by Hummel are as short as 5 bars, and are unsuitable for concert performance|
|Pierre Rode||24 Caprices en forme d'études||violin solo||pub. 1815||24||24||5C[c]|||
|Friedrich Kalkbrenner||24 Etüden durch alle Tonarten, Op. 20||piano||1816||24||24|||
|Charles Chaulieu||24 petits préludes: dans les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op. 9||piano||1820||24||24|||
|Christian Heinrich Rinck||30 Préludes dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op. 55/37-66||organ||before 1821||30||24||[e]||The 30 Préludes for organ are part of Rinck's Practical Organ School, Op. 55, a collection of 117 numbers. They contain both members of all six enharmonically equivalent key pairs, including the extremely rare keys of A-sharp minor and C-flat major The Exercises for piano similarly include a piece in A-sharp minor.|
|Exercices à deux parties dans tous les tons, Op. 67||piano||1821|
|Ignaz Moscheles||24 Études, Op. 70||piano||1825–26||24||24||Studien für das Pianoforte, zur höhern Vollendung bereits ausgebildeter Clavierspieler, bestehend aus 24 characteristischen Tonstücken|
|Bartolomeo Campagnoli (1751–1827)||30 Preludes in 30 different keys||violin||?||30||24||[f]||These cover all 30 keys that utilise up to 7 sharps or 7 flats|
|Friedrich Kalkbrenner||24 Preludes, Op. 88||piano||1827||24||24|||
|Joseph Christoph Kessler||24 Études, Op. 20||piano||1827||24||24||5C[c]||The 24 Études were dedicated to Hummel. The 24 Preludes were published in 1835 and dedicated to Chopin, who a decade later dedicated the German edition of his 24 Preludes, Op. 28 to Kessler.|
|24 Preludes, Op. 31||piano||c. 1829||24||24||5C[c]|
|Henri Herz||Exercices et préludes, Op. 21||piano||c. 1830||Dedicated to Hummel|
|Ignaz Moscheles||50 Preludes, Op. 73||piano||c. 1830||50|||
|Louise Farrenc||30 Études dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op. 26||piano||1837–38||30|||
|Frédéric Chopin||24 Preludes, Op. 28||piano||1835–39||24||24||5C[c]||Dedicated to Camille Pleyel (French edition) and Kessler (German edition)|
|Edward Wolff (1816–1880)||24 Études en forme de Préludes, Op. 20||piano||?||24||24||Wolff was a friend of Chopin's.|
|Ferdinand David||Bunte Reihe, Op. 30||violin and piano||c. 1840||Published 1851. This set of 24 pieces was arranged by Franz Liszt for solo piano in 1850 (S. 484)|
|August Klengel (1783–1852)||Les Avant-coureurs, 24 Canons||piano||1841||24||24||This was either "patterned after Bach" or "a kind of preparation" for Bach's 48. After his death, Hauptmann edited and published Klengel's 48 Canons and Fugues, writing "he expressed his own thoughts in the way in which Bach would have done had he lived at the present day"|
|Caspar Kummer||24 Études mélodiques, Op. 110||flute solo||1846||24||24||5C[c]|| Étude No. 13 is shown in 2 versions, F-sharp major and G-flat major; No. 14 as D-sharp minor and E-flat minor|
|Charles-Valentin Alkan||25 Preludes in all major and minor keys, Op. 31||piano||1847||25||The sequence of keys moves alternately up a fourth and down a third. The 24 keys conclude with a final Prayer in C major.|
|Charles-Valentin Alkan||12 Études in all the major keys, Op. 35||piano||1848||12||12M||5C[g]||These were complemented by the 12 minor key études, Op. 39 (1857)|
|Anton Bernhard Fürstenau (1792–1852)||26 Uebungen (Exercises), Op.107||flute solo||?||26|||
|Franz Liszt||12 Transcendental Études, S. 139||piano||1826–52||12||These covered the neutral and flat keys only. Liszt originally planned to write the full suite of 24 études, but apparently abandoned this plan. See Sergei Lyapunov below.|
|William Sterndale Bennett||30 Preludes and Lessons, Op. 33||piano||1851-53||30||5C[c]||Includes major and minor keys with seven sharps or flats: C-sharp major, A-sharp minor, C-flat major, A-flat minor.|
|Stephen Heller||24 Preludes, Op. 81||piano||1853||24||24||5C[c]|||
|Charles-Valentin Alkan||12 Études in all the minor keys, Op. 39||piano||1857||12||12m||5C[h]||These complete the sequence that was started with the 12 Études in all the major keys, Op. 35. Études 4–7 comprise the Symphony for Solo Piano, and Études 8–10 make up the Concerto for Solo Piano.|
|Carl Czerny (1791–1857)||Grand Exercise in 3rds in all the 24 Keys, Op. 380||piano||?||24||?||These three sets would not be the only ones in all 24 keys that Czerny wrote|
|24 Very Easy Preludes in the Most Useful Keys, Op. 501||24|
|The Pianist in the Classical Style, 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 856||48||24|
|Giuseppe Concone (1801–61)||24 Brilliant Preludes, Op. 37||piano||?||24||24||[i]|||
|Heinrich Wilhelm Stolze (1801–1868)||24 Fugues with preludes||organ||1861||48||24||Pupil of Johann Christian Kittel. The collection was published as part 4 of his organ method and is entitled "The well-tempered organ" as an explicit reference to Bach.|
|Charles-Valentin Alkan||Esquisses, Op. 63||piano||1861||49||24||Consists of 49 pieces in 4 books, which cover all the major and minor keys twice, and end with a final Laus Deo in C major.|
|Adolf Jensen||25 Études, Op. 32||piano||1866||25||24||5C[c] + 1||This set employs the circle of fifths for the first 24 preludes, and concludes with an additional prelude in C major|
|Ferdinand David (1810–1873)||Dur und Moll: 25 Etüden, Capricen und Charakterstücke in allen Tonarten, Op. 39||violin solo, or violin and piano||?|||
|Ferruccio Busoni||24 Preludes, Op. 37, BV. 181||piano||May 1881||24||24||5C[c]||Busoni had just turned 15 when he wrote this work. It has been recorded by Daniele Petralia, Geoffrey Douglas Madge, and Trevor Barnard.|
|Adolf von Henselt||Préambules dans tous les tons||piano||1884||24||24|||
|Sebastian Lee||30 Präludien in allen Tonarten, Op. 122||cello solo||1885||30|||
|Richard Hofmann||32 Special-Etüden, Op. 52||piano||1886||32|||
|Felix Blumenfeld||24 Preludes, Op. 17||piano||1892||24||24||5C[c]||Philip Thomson made the world premiere recording in 1999|
|Anton Arensky||24 Morceaux caractéristiques, Op. 36||piano||1894||24||24||[j]|||
|Alexander Scriabin||24 Preludes, Op. 11||piano||1893–95||24||24||5C[c]||Scriabin chose G♭ over F♯. He seems to have set out to write a further set of 24 preludes, and the 23 preludes of Opp. 13, 15, 16 and 17 (containing 6, 5, 5 and 7 preludes respectively) contain evidence of this, but he obviously moved away from his original idea as the key sequence breaks down.|
|Max Reger||111 Canons in all major and minor tonalities||piano||1895||111|||
|August Winding (1835–99)||Preludes in all the keys: A Cycle, Op. 26||piano||?||[k]||The work is in 25 parts: 24 preludes, ordered by ascending fourths (increasing flats, decreasing sharps), and a final Postludium in C major. It is dedicated to Isidor Seiss.|
|Richard Hofmann||50 leichte, melodische Studien in der ersten Lage u. in allen Tonarten, Op. 107||piano||1899||50|||
|40 melodische Studien in allen Lagen u. Tonarten, Op. 108||40|
|Johan Adam Krygell||"Moll und Dur", 24 preludes and fugues||organ||1893||48||24||all minor keys followed by all major keys|||
|Josef Rheinberger||20 sonatas||organ||20||Rheinberger set out to write 24 organ sonatas, one in each key. He completed 20 of these before he died in 1901.|
|César Cui||25 Preludes, Op. 64||piano||1903||25||24||[l]|| Cui's order of keys is unique in that each major key is followed by its minor mediant. It includes a 25th prelude in C major.|
|Sergei Lyapunov||12 Études d'exécution transcendante, Op. 11||piano||1897–1905||12||This set complemented Franz Liszt's set of 12 Transcendental Études from 1826–52 (which was written in neutral and flat keys only) by employing the remaining sharp keys. It was dedicated to Liszt's memory. These two sets could be considered to form a unified set of 24 Transcendental Études traversing all the keys.|
|Jean-Henri Ravina (1818–1906)||100 Préludes dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs, Op. 110||piano||?||100|||
|Reinhold Glière||25 Preludes, Op. 30||piano||1907||25||24||[m]|||
|Selim Palmgren||24 Preludes, Op. 17||piano||1907||24||24||[n]|
|Emil Sjögren||Legends: Religious Moods (Swedish: Legender: religiösa stämningar) Op. 46||organ||1907||Based on fragments of his famous improvisations in St. John's Church, Stockholm. Divided in two volumes, the first volume follows the first half of the circle of fifths completely from C major to G-sharp minor, but in the second volume, the order instead is from F major to E-flat minor.|
|Richard Hofmann||Elementar-Studien für Violine, op. 129||violin solo||1909|||
|Ludvig Schytte||Melodische Vortragsstudien in allen Tonarten, Op. 159||piano||1909|||
|Hans Sitt||Dur und Moll: 28 leichte melodische Etüden für Violine (erste Lage) zur Befestigung der Intonation in allen Tonarten, Op. 107||violin solo||1909||28|||
|Sergei Rachmaninoff||24 Preludes, Opp. 3/2, 23, 32||piano||1892–1910||[o]||The Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3/2, was part of a collection of pieces, and there is no evidence Rachmaninoff had at that stage planned to write 24 preludes traversing all the keys. Between 1901 and 1903, he wrote 10 Preludes, Op. 23, and in 1910 he completed the 24 with his 13 Preludes, Op. 32. See "The Rachmaninoff case" above for more details.|
|Blas María de Colomer||24 Préludes mélodiques||piano||1910||24||24||5C[c]|||
|Hans Huber (1815–1921)||24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 100||piano 4-hands||early C.20||48||24|| Many sources inexplicably say there were only 12 pieces in the set, while at the same time listing 24|
|Louis Vierne||Vingt-quatre Pièces en style libre, Op. 31||organ||1913||24||24|||
|Sir Charles Villiers Stanford||24 Preludes, Set I, Op. 163||piano||1918||24||24||Set I has been recorded by Peter Jacobs. Set II was completed in December 1920, not in 1921 as many sources report.|
|24 Preludes, Set II, Op. 179||piano||1920||24||24|
|Alexander Wunderer (1877–1955)||24 Etüden in allen Tonarten||oboe solo||pub. 1924||24||24||[m]|| The 11th Etüde bears a striking similarity to the 11th variation of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Variations on a Theme of Glinka, for oboe and military band.|
|Gustav Struempl (1855–1927)||24 Preludes, Op. 16||piano||?||24||24|||
|Louis Vierne||Pièces de fantaisie, 4 books, Opp. 51, 53–55||organ||1926–27|||
|Manuel Ponce||24 Preludes||guitar||c. 1929||24||24||Twelve of these were published by Andrés Segovia in 1930, but the remainder had to wait for the guitarist Miguel Alcazar to reconstruct them from Ponce's manuscripts before being published in 1981.|
|François Demierre (1893–1976)||24 Préludes dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs||piano||1932||24||24||Swiss-French organist and teacher; his first wife was the sister of Ernest Ansermet.|
|Dmitri Shostakovich||24 Preludes, Op. 34||piano||1932–33||24||24||5C[c]|| See also 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 (1950–51).|
|Valery Zhelobinsky||24 Preludes, Op. 20||piano||1934||24||24||[m]||Zhelobinsky uses Bach's sequence of keys, but Prelude No. 23, although it is effectively in B-flat minor, has a key signature with 6 flats, as if it were written in E-flat minor (like Prelude No. 8). Most C-naturals in this prelude are arrived at via the use of accidentals, while C-flats, which would have required accidentals had the true key signature with only 5 flats been used, don't need any.|
|Vsevolod Zaderatsky||24 Preludes||piano||1934||24||24|||
|Boris Goltz||24 Preludes, Op. 2||piano||1934-1935||24||24|| Goltz used the key order of Chopin |
|Charles Koechlin||Fifteen Vocalises in all major keys, Op. 152||voice and piano||Aug–Sep 1935|||
|Fifteen Vocalises in all minor keys, Op. 154||Oct 1935|
|Viktor Kosenko||Twenty-four Pieces for Children, Op. 25||Piano||1936||24||24||Erroneously published in 1938 as Op. 15, but later corrected by Musichna Ukraina.|
|Vsevolod Zaderatsky||24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1937-1938||48||24|||
|Algernon Ashton (1859–1937)||24 string quartets||string quartet||?||24||24||These 24 string quartets in 24 different keys are lost, possibly destroyed in WWII bombing. Ashton also wrote 8 piano sonatas, all in different keys, and it may be that he planned to complete a cycle of 24 of them as well. One source says he wrote 24 Preludes and Fugues, but this is not corroborated.|
|David Diamond||52 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1939–42|| The first recording that Leonard Bernstein ever made included some of these pieces.|
|Joseph Jongen||Vingt-quatre petits préludes pour piano dans tous les tons, Op. 116||piano||1941||24||24|| At least some of them exist in a version for organ.|
|Paul Hindemith||Ludus Tonalis||piano||1942||25||12||[p]||The work consists of a prelude, 11 interludes, and a postlude, each separated by 12 fugues|
|Dmitry Kabalevsky||24 Preludes, Op. 38||piano||1943‑44||24||24||5C[c]|
|Julius Weismann (1879–1950)||Der Fugenbaum (The Fugue Tree), 24 Preludes and Fugues in all the keys, Op. 150||piano||1946||48||24|||
|Craig Sellar Lang||A miniature 48; two books of short preludes & fugues in all keys, Op. 64||piano||1949||48||24|||
|York Bowen||24 Preludes, Op. 102||piano||1938–50||24||24||[m]|| Dedicated to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji|
|Dmitri Shostakovich||24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87||piano||1950–51||48||24||5C[c]||See also 24 Preludes, Op. 34 (1932–33). In both these cases, Shostakovich adhered to Chopin's order of keys, although he was greatly influenced by Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier and even quoted parts of that work in Op. 87.|
|Hans Gál||24 Preludes, Op. 83||piano||1959–60||24||24||Written during a fortnight's hospital stay, as a birthday present to himself; FP October 1960, composer, Edinburgh Society of Musicians|
|Gara Garayev||24 Preludes||piano||1951–61||24||24||5C[c]|||
|Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco||Les Guitares bien tempérées (The Well-Tempered Guitars), 24 préludes et fugues, Op. 199||2 guitars||1962||[q]||Described as "the longest and most important cycle of works for two guitars ever composed", the 200-page score was written between 8 March and 3 June 1962, in response to performances by the popular husband-wife duo Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya|
|Gunnar de Frumerie||Circulus Quintus Op. 62||piano||1965||24||24||24 piano pieces, where some of them have names which suggest the character of the piece such as "Siciliano", "Tarantella" or "Gavotte". As in the case of Emil Sjögren's Legends for organ, the collection is divided in two volumes, where the first has the pieces ordered in a perfect half-circle of fifths from C major to G-sharp minor, and the second volume is ordered in a half-circle of fifths backwards, i.e. starting with F major and ending with E-flat minor.|
|Richard Cumming||24 Preludes||piano||1966–69||24||24||Commissioned by John Browning, who stipulated they should be "as hard as possible", gave the FP in 1969, and recorded them|
|Rodion Shchedrin||24 Preludes and Fugues, in 2 vols.||piano||1964–70||48||24||5C[c]||Shchedrin gave the FP of Vol. I in Moscow in 1965, and the FP of the complete cycle in 1971. Dedicated to the memory of his father.|
|Dmitri Shostakovich||15 string quartets||string quartet||1938–74||15||15u||Shostakovich planned to write 24 string quartets, one each in a different key, but completed only 15 before his death.|
|Alan Bush||24 Preludes, Op. 84||piano||1977||24||24||Composer gave the first performance at the Wigmore Hall on 30 October 1977.|
|Hiroshi Hara (1933–2002)||24 Preludes & Fugues||piano||1981|||
|Jaan Rääts||24 Marginalia, Op. 68||2 pianos||1982||24||24|||
|Alexander Iakovtchouk (b. 1952)||24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1983||48||24|||
|Nikolai Kapustin||24 Preludes in Jazz Style, Op. 53||piano||1988||24||24||5C[c]|| See also 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 82 (1997)|
|Jaan Rääts||24 Estonian Preludes, Op. 80||piano||1988||24||24|||
|Igor Rekhin (b. 1941)||24 Preludes and Fugues||guitar||1985–90||48||24||[m]|
|24 Caprices||cello solo||1991||24||24|
|David Cope||The Well-Tempered Disklavier, 48 preludes and fugues||piano||1991||48||24|||
|Sergei Slonimsky||24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1994||48||24||Slonimsky was inspired to create this cycle after listening to Glenn Gould's recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier on New Year's Eve, 1993. The cycle was dedicated to the memory of A. N. Dolzhansky. It follows Bach's key organization, ascending in chromatic order from C major to B minor.|
|Trygve Madsen (b. 1940)||24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 101||piano||1995–96||48||24|||
|Howard Blake||Lifestyle, Op. 489: 24 pieces||Piano||1996||24||24|||
|Nikolai Kapustin||24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 82||piano||1997||48||24||The major keys tour the circle of fifths in the flat direction (beginning with C major and ending with G major), while the minor keys tour in the same mode, but begin at the other side of the circle (starting with G-sharp minor and ending with E-flat minor). This has the effect of juxtaposing very unrelated keys, and spacing relative majors and minors as far apart from one another as possible. See also 24 Preludes in Jazz Style, Op. 53 (1988)|
|Ron Weidberg||Voyage to the End of the Millennium: 24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1997–98||48||24|||
|Lera Auerbach||24 Preludes, Op. 41||piano||1999||24||24||5C[c]|||
|24 Preludes, Op. 46||violin and piano||24||24|
|24 Preludes, Op. 47||cello and piano||24||24|
|Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919–2000)||Det temperede klaver, 14 sets each containing 24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||?||672||24||Opp. 157, 379, 400, 409, 428, 470, 530, 532, 541, 542, 546, 554, 633, 638|
|Henry Martin (b. 1950)||24 Preludes and Fugues||piano||1990–2000||48||24|||
|John Ramsden Williamson (b. 1929)||Palindromic Preludes (at least 8 sets of 12), New Preludes||piano||1993–2000||These sets generally consist of 12 major or minor keys|
|Daniel Padrón (b. 1966)||24 Nocturnes||piano||c. 2002||24||24|||
|Rob Peters||24 Preludes, Op. 119||organ||2003||24||24|||
|Wim Zwaag (b. 1960)||24 Preludes||piano||2004||24||24||FP April 2007, Paul Komen at the Bethaniënklooster, Amsterdam|
|Jeroen van Veen||24 Minimal Preludes, 2 Books||piano||1999–2006||24||24||5C[c]||Book I, 1999–2003; Book II, 2004–06 |
|Richard White||24 Preludes and Fugues||organ||(2007)||48||24||This was a work in progress as of 2007|
|Mark Alburger||"Standards": 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 162||piano||2008||48||24|||
|Michelle Gorrell||Well-tempered licks & grooves: 24 preludes & fugues in jazz styles||piano||2010|||
|Leslie Howard (b. 1948)||24 Classical Preludes for Piano, Op. 25||piano||?||24||24||As well as cycling through the major and minor keys, each prelude is written in the style of a different composer|
|Shuwen Zhang (b. 1991)||The 24 Chinese Solar Terms||piano or harpsichord||2011–2012||24||24||[r]|
|Lawrence Chandler||The Tuning of the World||string quartet||2012||24||24|
|Michael Brough (b. 1960)||25 Picture-Preludes for Piano, Op. 19||piano||2013-14||25||25||All the major and minor keys, and a central piece in no (open) key|
Modulating through all 12 major keys
These two preludes each progressively traverse the 12 major keys. In Prelude No. 1, each key occupies from 2 to 26 bars. The keys of C♯ and D♭, which are enharmonically equivalent, are both represented. C major both opens and closes the set. In Prelude No. 2, the cycle of keys appears twice; in the first cycle, the number of bars per key ranges from 1 to 8; in the second half, after C every new key signature lasts for only one bar; the cycle concludes with 15 bars of C major. There is no evidence that Beethoven intended to write similar sets in the 12 minor keys.
Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692) included in Artificii musicali Op. 13 (1689) a passacaglia which modulates through eight major keys (out of twelve) from E-flat major to E major through the cycle of fifths.
Fugue No. 8 in Anton Reicha's Trente six FUGUES pour le Piano-Forté composées d'après un nouveau systême (subtitled Cercle harmonique) modulates through all keys.
The rondo theme of Darius Milhaud's Le bœuf sur le toit is played fifteen times in all 12 major keys (twice in A major and thrice in the tonic, C major). It also passes through every minor key, with the single exception of E minor.
Works covering all church modes
Charles-Valentin Alkan composed Petits préludes sur les huit gammes du plain-chant, for organ (1859, no opus number), a sequence of eight organ preludes covering each one of the church modes.
In theory[w] there are 31 possible note names[x] and, taking each as the tonic of one major and one minor key, 62 key names. But 32 of those keys have uncommon signatures which contain double flats or double sharps, so in practice the choice of key name is restricted to the 30 keys whose signatures have no double flats or double sharps. Keys with 6 flats and 6 sharps,[y] with 7 flats and 5 sharps[z] and with 5 flats and 7 sharps[aa] are enharmonic to one another. Composers will, in most (though not all) cases, choose only one key from each enharmonic pair. But there are also cases of sets covering all 30 keys, which, in other words, include all enharmonic variants.
The table in the next section outlines, among other things, the choices made in the various collections listed here.
The canonic 24 keys
The sequence of keys that make up the canonic 24 are:[ab]
|1||C major||No sharps or flats|
|2||C minor||3 flats|
|3||Either C-sharp major||7 sharps||Bach and Alkan chose C-sharp major, but most composers have preferred D-flat major|
|or D-flat major||5 flats|
|4||C-sharp minor||4 sharps|
|5||D major||2 sharps|
|6||D minor||1 flat|
|7||E-flat major||3 flats|
|8||Either D-sharp minor||6 sharps||Most composers of sets of 24 pieces have chosen E-flat minor over D-sharp minor, although the latter is technically no more difficult. Bach, Lyapunov and Ponce used D-sharp, but most composers have preferred E-flat. The first use of D-sharp minor was in Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, in Fugue No. 8 from Book 1 (although its corresponding Prelude was written in E-flat minor). Another is in Lyapunov's Étude d'execution transcendante No. 2, subtitled "Ronde des Fantômes"|
|or E-flat minor||6 flats|
|9||E major||4 sharps|
|10||E minor||1 sharp|
|11||F major||1 flat|
|12||F minor||4 flats|
|13||Either F-sharp major||6 sharps||F-sharp major was the choice of Bach, Hummel, Chopin, Heller, Busoni, Lyapunov, Arensky, Blumenfeld, Ponce and Shostakovich.
G-flat major was preferred by Alkan, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Winding.
|or G-flat major||6 flats|
|14||F-sharp minor||3 sharps|
|15||G major||1 sharp|
|16||G minor||2 flats|
|17||A-flat major||4 flats|
|18||Either G‑sharp minor||5 sharps||Alkan wrote a piece in A-flat minor, but most composers have preferred G-sharp minor.|
|or A-flat minor||7 flats|
|19||A major||3 sharps|
|20||A minor||No sharps or flats|
|21||B-flat major||2 flats|
|22||Either B-flat minor||5 flats||No well-known sets of 24 pieces include A-sharp minor. B-flat minor seems to be the universal choice in sets of 24, but there is no compelling reason why A-sharp minor should not be represented in works of this type, as it has no more accidentals in its key signature than C-sharp major or A-flat minor, both of which are represented. A-sharp minor does appear in Campagnoli's and Rinck's works mentioned above, along with C‑flat major, but those collections include both members of all six enharmonically equivalent pairs.|
|or A-sharp minor||7 sharps|
|23||Either B major||5 sharps||No well-known sets of 24 pieces include C-flat major, although it is technically no more difficult than A-flat minor or C-sharp major. While C-flat major is sometimes used in compositions (particularly for the harp, which is especially suited to this key), it is not generally considered one of the standard keys because it is enharmonically equivalent to B major. It is very rare for a set of pieces covering all the keys to include a piece in C-flat major. Two examples are from Bartolomeo Campagnoli's 30 Preludes for violin, and Christian Heinrich Rinck's 30 Préludes from his Practical Organ School, Op. 55, published before 1821.|
|or C-flat major||7 flats|
|24||B minor||2 sharps|
Order of keys in published works
The circle of fifths, whereby each major key is followed by its relative minor key, is a commonly used schema. Angelo Michele Bartolotti used this approach as early as 1640, and it was also adopted by such later composers as Rode, Hummel, Chopin, Heller, Busoni, Scriabin, Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Kapustin.
Other composers derived their own schemas based on certain logical rationales. For example, in Alkan’s 25 Preludes, Op. 31, the sequence of keys moves alternately up a fourth and down a third.
Works out of scope
Not all sets of 24 pieces belong in this category. For example, there was no intention in Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices for solo violin, Claude Debussy's 24 Préludes for piano, or Pavel Zemek Novak's 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano to cover all the keys. (Paganini may not have been aware of Pierre Rode's 24 Caprices for violin, which did span the 24 keys and preceded his by several years.)
Chopin's 24 études (Opp. 10 & 25) might have originally been planned to be in all 24 keys. In fact, apart from Nos. 7 and 8, the first series (Op. 10) is made of couples of études in a major key and its parallel minor (the major key either preceding the minor key or following it) with none of the tonalities occurring twice (except for C major, which appears in No. 1 and then in the only couple which is not major-minor, i.e. Nos. 7 and 8). But in the second series (Op. 25) this tonal scheme gets more and more loose. It is still possible to see connections on a tonal basis between the couples of études in Op. 25, but they are not based on one principle (e.g. Nos. 3 and 4 in F major - A minor, two tonalities which Chopin likes to put together very often, as in his second Ballade). One might suppose that Chopin considered writing the études in all the tonalities, but eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn't practical, and turned back to it later, for the 24 Preludes, Op.28. The fact that the first étude of Op. 10 is made of arpeggios in C major draws a connection to Bach's first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and makes it clear that Chopin had the tradition on his mind.