Dinner Topics for Friday
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. ~Proverbs 3:5
Pachelbel Canon in D Major
Johann Pachelbel (German pronunciation: [ˈjoːhɑn ˈpaxəlbɛl]; baptised September 1, 1653 – buried March 9, 1706) was a German Baroque composer, organist and teacher, who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era.
Pachelbel’s music enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany. Today, Pachelbel is best known for the Canon in D, as well as the Chaconne in F minor, the Toccata in E minor for organ, and the Hexachordum Apollinis, a set of keyboard variations.
Pachelbel’s music was influenced by southern German composers, such as Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Kaspar Kerll, Italians such as Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro Poglietti, French composers, and the composers of the Nuremberg tradition. He preferred a lucid, uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasized melodic and harmonic clarity. His music is less virtuosic and less adventurous harmonically than that of Dieterich Buxtehude, although, like Buxtehude, Pachelbel experimented with different ensembles and instrumental combinations in his chamber music and, most importantly, his vocal music, much of which features exceptionally rich instrumentation. Pachelbel explored many variation forms and associated techniques, which manifest themselves in various diverse pieces, from sacred concertos to harpsichord suites.
One of the last middle Baroque composers, Pachelbel did not have any considerable influence on most of the famous late Baroque composers, such as George Frideric Handel, Domenico Scarlatti or Georg Philipp Telemann. He did influence Johann Sebastian Bach indirectly; the young Johann Sebastian was tutored by his older brother Johann Christoph Bach, who studied with Pachelbel, but although J.S. Bach’s early chorales and chorale variations borrow from Pachelbel’s music, the style of northern German composers, such as Georg Böhm, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Adam Reincken, played a more important role in the development of Bach’s talent.
Pachelbel was the last great composer of the Nuremberg tradition and the last important southern German composer. Pachelbel’s influence was mostly limited to his pupils, most notably Johann Christoph Bach, Johann Heinrich Buttstett, Andreas Nicolaus Vetter, and two of Pachelbel’s sons, Wilhelm Hieronymus and Charles Theodore. The latter became one of the first European composers to take up residence in the American colonies and so Pachelbel influenced, although indirectly and only to a certain degree, the American church music of the era. Composer, musicologist and writer Johann Gottfried Walther is probably the most famous of the composers influenced by Pachelbel – he is, in fact, referred to as the “second Pachelbel” in Mattheson‘s Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte.
As the Baroque style went out of fashion during the 18th century, the majority of Baroque and pre-Baroque composers were virtually forgotten. Local organists in Nuremberg and Erfurt knew Pachelbel’s music and occasionally performed it, but the public and the majority of composers and performers did not pay much attention to Pachelbel and his contemporaries. In the first half of the 19th century, some organ works by Pachelbel were published and several musicologists started considering him an important composer, particularly Philipp Spitta, who was one of the first researchers to trace Pachelbel’s role in the development of Baroque keyboard music. Much of Pachelbel’s work was published in the early 20th century in the Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich series, but it was not until the rise of interest in early Baroque music in the middle of the 20th century and the advent of historically-informed performance practice and associated research that Pachelbel’s works began to be studied extensively and again performed more frequently.
Popularity of the Canon in D
Pachelbel’s Canon in D major, a piece of chamber music scored for three violins and basso continuo and originally paired with a gigue in the same key, experienced a tremendous surge in popularity during the 1970s. This is believed to be due to a recording by Jean-François Paillard in 1970, which made it a universally recognized cultural item. Its visibility was greatly increased by its choice as the theme song for the popular film Ordinary People. Now one of the most recognized and famous baroque compositions, it has in recent years become extremely popular for use in weddings, rivalling that of Wagner‘s Bridal Chorus.