Johann Pachelbel

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Born: Sep 1, 1653; Germany   Died: Mar 9, 1706; Germany   Period: Baroque
Johann Pachelbel is unfairly viewed as a one-work composer, that work being the popular Canon in D major, for three violins and continuo. He was an important figure from the Baroque period who is now seen as central in the development of both keyboard music and Protestant church music. Some have summarized his primary contribution as the uniting of Catholic Gregorian chant elements with the Northern German organ style, a style that reflected the Read more influence of the Protestant chorale. A Lutheran, he spent several years in Vienna where he was exposed to music by Frohberger and Frescobaldi, which influenced his work with the chorale-prelude. His music in this genre would in turn influence the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, among others. It should be noted that many of Pachelbel's works are difficult to date, thus rendering judgments about his stylistic evolution questionable in many cases. Pachelbel was also a gifted organist and harpsichordist.
Pachelbel was born in August of 1653 and baptized on September 1. He showed musical talent early on and began studies first with Heinrich Schwemmer and later with George Kaspar Wecker, the latter instructing in composition and on organ. Pachelbel received his general education at St. Lorenz high school, and in 1669 he enrolled at the university in Altdorf. Pachelbel did not come from a wealthy family and earned meager sums serving as organist at the Lorenzkirche. He thus could not garner enough money to keep up with the tuition costs at the university and had to leave after about a year.
After a brief period of private study following his departure, Pachelbel traveled to Vienna and obtained an assistant organist post at St. Stephen's Cathedral in 1673. Four years later he took a position as court organist in Eisenach, where Bach would be born in 1685. He would become a close friend of the Bach family and teach both Johann Sebastian and Johann Christoph. Pachelbel left after a year at Eisenach however, and became organist at the Predigerkirche in Erfurt, in 1678.
The composer married Barbara Gabler in 1681, and by 1683 he was a father. In September of that year however, tragedy struck as a plague swept through Erfurt, taking his wife and infant son. Four sets of chorale variations appeared around this time under the title of Musicalische Sterbens-Gedancken (Musical Thoughts of Death). During this period his organ chorales would become his most important works.
In August 1684, Pachelbel married Judith Drommer. One of their seven children would be the composer, organist, and harpsichordist Wilhelm Hieronymus Pachelberg, born 1686. In 1690 Pachelbel took a post as Court organist at Stuttgart and appeared quite satisfied, but left after two years due to an impending invasion by French forces. He served next as municipal organist at Gotha, from the fall of 1692 until April 1695. He returned to Nuremberg around the latter time, eventually to become organist at St. Sebalduskirche (summer, 1695). He would serve for nearly 11 years in this post, producing his most famous vocal scores, as well as his great Magnificat fugues. In 1699 he produced his important collection of six arias, Hexachordum Apollinis, for organ or harpsichord. Pachelbel was buried in Nuremberg on March 9, 1706, and apparently had died on March 3. Read less
Baroque - A Baroque Celebration - Pachelbel, Bach, Et Al
Release Date: 10/17/2000   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1135   Number of Discs: 1
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Pachelbel: Organ Works Vol 2 / Matthew Owens
Release Date: 11/25/2008   Label: Delphian  
Catalog: 34031   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Canon in D major

 

About This Work
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 Read more 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
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