Archive for May 21, 2013

Pachelbel’s Canon

In an earlier post, I made a quick note about the ubiquitous nature of the chord progression in a piece of music called “Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo”, also known as Pachelbel’s Canon, also known as “the ‘Freebird’ of classical music.” (Thanks to for that last one.)

But today, we shall look at Pachelbel’s Canon itself. For those of you who have heard this piece of music a million times at weddings but don’t know it by name, here’s a snip from a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra. (You can hear the full piece here.)


pachelbelJohann Pachelbel (1653-1706) was a German composer from the Baroque era. He was a hugely popular composer during his life, and composed an enormous body of work.

Pachelbel was also a teacher, and wound up tutoring the Bach family, among others. Though Pachelbel did not directly tutor Johann Sebastian Bach, he did tutor Johann Chrisoph Bach, Johann Sebastian’s older brother. J.S. Bach was in turn tutored by Johann Christoph Bach, and then later turned into another Baroque megastar.

In fact, Pachelbel might have written “Canon and Gigue” for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding, according to a theory by Hans-Joachim Schulze. (It is known that Pachelbel wrote music for the wedding, and that he attended the event.)

Pachelbel was best known in life as an organist and an organ composer, even though his choral works (like the Canon) are what are best known today. The irony of this is that most of his chamber works are lost. The “Canon and Gigue” are two rare ones that survived.

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