The writing style in the opening movement, Adagio, grew out of the improvisatory prelude, in which a composer would write only a very general outline, and the performer was expected to improvise divisions and counterpoint within the prescribed framework. These preludes were, at first, written without barlines and were played with extreme freedom in every respect. In Bach's Adagio, while all aspects may be written out with meticulous detail, the piece comes alive when performers play with a certain freedom, as though they may be improvising. Furthermore, it will be helpful for performers to study the movement, discover how the harmonies interact, and become aware of the basic underlying melody, as it would sound without the elaborate divisions and embellishments.

The articles and videos presented on this site will discuss various aspects of the piece in detail, giving musicians a framework from which to approach this music.