Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Johann Pachelbel
March’s Canon of the Month goes to the ever popular 17th century Canon in D by western wedding favorite Johann Pachelbel, who was laid to rest 310 years ago on March 9, 1706, in honor of some three centuries worth of annual observance, and in honor of conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who passed away earlier this month (on the 5th of March) in Austria at the advanced age of 86 years.

The compositional history of the Canon, much like the date of it’s composers passing, remains under debate. Likewise, the purpose of, or inspirational source of the piece continue to be controversial. Some modern scholars scoff at the legend surrounding the Canon as having been composed for contemporary musician  Johann Christoph Bach's wedding in 1694, citing later similarities to the works of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (among other historical discrepancies) ultimately relegating the concept of Pachelbel composing the piece as a nuptial gift as little more than a myth.

The iconic 17th century piece, originally scored for three violins and bass, with accompanying gigue in the same key was first published in 1913 by scholar Gustav Beckmann, who was instrumental in bringing the work to prominence. By 1968, upon listening to a recording of the Canon performed by the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra arranged by the conductor Paillard, classical music aficionados began to take notice of the formerly shelved work, creating repeat productions and recordings of the Canon which would usher Pachelbel's magnum opus into the classical arena's mainstream repertoire.

Pachelbel's Canon in D, is to date, one of western classical music's most famous crossover pieces, with both original and modified versions of the work frequently being found infiltrating pop culture. As such, the Canon is instantly recognizable even to the Classical music layman.

Pachelbel's signature piece is often found employed as a musical backdrop not only at weddings, but also at funerals in the Western world.  dedicates the video below to conductor Nikalous Harnoncourt,[1] in recognition of his instrumental efforts to re-familiarize the modern world with the music of our early masters of the musical artform. The clip below features Paillard's ground-breaking rendition of the once obscure work - it is one I am sure Harnoncourt would have appreciated:

[1]The late conductor Harnoncourt was founder of the period instrument ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien whose historically informed performances were highly praised in the conductor’s lifetime, and who helped bring appreciation and proliferation to the performance of early western classical music.

Remembering Nikolaus Harnoncourt: 6 December 1929 – 5 March 2016



Johann Pachelbel: September? 1653 – March 6? 1706


Rest in peace, maestri.


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