The A-Z of the piano

We celebrate the world's most popular instrument with a look at 26 of its greatest features

B is for Bach’s 48 and Beethoven’s 32: the pianist’s bible

The basic essentials of the pianist’s repertoire. The two books of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-Tempered Clavier) were completed in 1742, though they were not published in Bach’s lifetime. Intended as a work for students to play in all keys and in a wide range of styles and textures, they are now an indispensible part of every aspect of a pianist’s training. Schumann encouraged his readers to ‘let the Well-Tempered Clavier be your daily bread’. Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas, written between 1795 and 1822, take us on a journey from Haydn (to whom the first three are dedicated) to the future of music (the last three), constituting the first body of serious, substantial piano music suitable for large concert halls. They ‘gradually became the basis of the public repertoire for any pianist with pretensions to serious musicianship’, as wrote pianist Charles Rosen.