Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, September 1

Pachelbel and his "Canon"

Synopsis

On today’s date in 17th century Germany, a baby boy was christened who would grow up to be one of the leading composers and organists of his time. No, it wasn’t Johann Sebastian Bach — although the child we’re discussing here would become the teacher of the teacher of J.S. Bach and did serve as godfather to one J.S. Bach’s older relations.

It was Johann Pachelbel who was baptized on today’s date in Nuremberg in the year 1653. A famous musician in his day, after his death in 1706, 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, as Pachelbel’s “Canon,” suddenly become an unexpected hit. In 1979, the American composer George Rochberg even included a set of variations on Pachelbel’s Canon as the 3rd movement of his own String Quartet No. 6.

Like Bach, some of 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, where he died in 1750, the same year as J.S. Bach

Music Played in Today's Program

George Rochberg (1918 - 2005) Variations on Pachelbel's Canon, from String Quartet No. 6 Concord Quartet New World 80551

Additional Information

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