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Work

Johann Pachelbel

Johann Pachelbel Composer

Canon and Gigue in D, for 3 violins and continuo ('Pachelbel's Canon'), T.337

Performances: 144
Tracks: 169
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Musicology:
  • Canon and Gigue in D, for 3 violins and continuo ('Pachelbel's Canon'), T.337
    Key: D
    Year: 1700
    Genre: Other Chamber
    Pr. Instruments: Violin & String Orchestra
    • 1.Canon
    • 2.Gigue
Johann Pachelbel was a well-known musician in his day. He composed a multitude of works for the organ (his native instrument), along with motets, sacred concertos, keyboard suites, and pieces in a variety of other genres. Of all these hundreds of compositions, however, far and away his best-known work is the Canon in D major, known colloquially as Pachelbel's Canon. This short piece has become a mainstay of chamber orchestras and other musicians and ensembles throughout the world. It has been arranged for almost any instrument or combination of instruments one might imagine, from synthesizer to brass quintet, and has been adapted for musical styles from jazz to new age.

A canon is simply an imitative piece in which one instrument plays a melody, and part way into it another instrument joins in with the same tune, followed by one or more further instruments. In the case of Pachelbel's work, a two bar ostinato (or repeating melodic phrase) in the bass becomes the foundation for a set of 28 variations, in which three violins interact in canon with one another. Baroque convention would have this work performed in a moderate-to-fast tempo; however, the work is most often heard played slowly. Played thus, the Canon becomes a quite beautiful and meditative work. Only occasionally is the Canon played in tandem with the lively Gigue that Pachelbel intended to follow it.

© All Music Guide

Canon and Gigue in D, T.337 (arr. keyboard) - 1.Canon

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) was a fairly popular composer of the German High Baroque who wrote many works in virtually every genre from organ music to cantatas. But he was just one more one time fairly popular composer lost in the mists of musical time until Rudolf Baumgartner and the Lucerne Festival Strings decided to record a work they called Pachelbel's Canon for France's Erato in the mid-'60s. The recording was not considered worthy of release domestically in the United States except by the Musical Heritage Society. Amazingly enough, the recording became a MHS best seller and, even more amazingly, was heard by Robert Redford, who decided to use it in his film Ordinary People (1980). From there, for a brief time, Pachelbel's Canon became the most popular piece of classical music in the history of humanity. Originally written in 1700 as a short, fast piece for three violins and basso continuo, the Baumgartner recording set the pace for outlandish arrangements of the work by slowing it down to about a third its original tempo and expanding the string section by a factor of ten. Since then, Pachelbel's Canon has been arranged for brass quintet by the Canadian Brass, for flute by James Galway and for flute and voice by Galway and Cleo Laine, for string quartet by George Rochberg as part of his String Quartet No. 6, for string quartet as a gloss on "Earth Angel" by the Hampton String Quartet, for synthesizer by Tomita as something called Canon of the Three Stars, plus hundreds of other arrangements for every conceivable instrument or instruments. Occasionally, the original even gets recorded.

© James Leonard, All Music Guide
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.
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