Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Friday, March 9

Pachelbel and his Canon

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1706, the German composer and organist Johann Pachelbel was buried in Nuremberg, the town where he was born some 53 years earlier.

In his day, Pachelbel was regarded as something of a progressive—an innovative composer of Protestant church music and works for harpsichord and organ. Pachelbel was acquainted with the Bach family, and was, in fact, the teacher of the teacher of J.S. Bach, and served as godfather to one of J.S. Bach’s older relations.

As famous as he was in his day, Pachelbel would be pretty much forgotten by most music lovers until late in the 20th century, when an orchestral arrangement of a little chamber piece that he had written would suddenly become one of the best-known, best-loved, and one of the most unavoidable classical themes of our time. In 1979, the American composer George Rochberg even included variations on Pachelbel’s famous Canon as the 3rd movement of his own String Quartet No. 6.

Like Bach, some of Johann Pachelbel’s children also became composers, and one of them, Karl Teodorus Pachelbel, emigrated from Germany to the British colonies of North America. As “Charles Theodore Pachelbel,” he became an important figure in the musical life of early 18th century Boston and Charleston, and died there in 1750, the same year as J.S. Bach.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Rochberg (b. 1918) Variations on the Pachelbel Canon Concord String Quartet RCA/BMG 60712

Additional Information

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