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
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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