Johann Pachelbel (August 1653 - March 3, 1706) was a German Baroque composer and organist, best remembered for his Canon in D.
Pachelbel was organist at Erfurt, in the Thuringian region of Germany. He contributed to Protestant church music, especially to music for the keyboard. Pachelbel's harmonizations of church chorales seem to have been inspirational to the young Johann Sebastian Bach, whose older brother, Johann Christoph Bach, had been Pachelbel's organ student. Indeed, Pachelbel seems to have enjoyed close friendships with many members of the Bach family of musicians. Pachelbel served in the capelle in Eisenach, the home city of Ambrosius Bach and birthplace of his many children including Johann Sebastian and Johann Christoph, for a year in the 1670s. Pachelbel also stood as godfather for Ambrosius Bach's daughter (Johann Sebastian's sister) Johanna Judith Bach.
In addition to the well-known Canon and numerous church hymn settings, Pachelbel wrote a considerable number of cantatas for the Lutheran church and chamber sonatas for various instruments, especially the violin.
His son William Hieronymous Pachelbel was also an organist and composer.
Rise in popularity
|Number of times mentioned
in the NY Times
It is sometimes supposed that classical music is intrinsically timeless and is not subject to the caprices of fashion. Pachelbel's canon provides a good counterexample.
As tracked by mentions in The New York Times, Pachelbel was all but unknown to United States audiences before the 1930s.
During the 1930s, his organ music, particularly 'From Heaven on High To Earth I Come,' began to be programmed regularly by church organists during the Christmas season, and performances of other works are occasionally mentioned, such as 'Seven Chorale Partitas' for organ, a motet, and a Magnificat.
The Canon is first mentioned on March 15, 1971, and the context, 'a Bach fugue and a Pachelbel canon' suggests that the work was not familiar. However, by May 20, 1977, it is already being referred to as 'the famous Pachelbel canon.'
This table and chart give the number of times Pachelbel is mentioned in The New York Times, by decade:
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