Sunday, September 1, 2019

Johann Pachelbel - Chorale Preludes

Today is Johann Pachelbel's birthday.  He is famous today for his Canon in D, which has eclipsed Wagner's Wedding March in popularity at weddings.  It has become the subject of parody (I have a few examples at the end of this post for your amusement).  While it's not the point of today's post, I embed it here (mostly because it's a beautiful Sunday morning and because The Queen Of The World thinks it's pretty).  It's an unusual version, with full orchestra.

But Pachelbel wrote a lot of music.  He was one of the great Baroque composers, and had a huge reputation in his day.  He knew most everybody who was anybody in 17th Century Europe - he gave music lessons to J. S. Bach's order brother and was godfather to his sister.

But fashion is fickle, and tastes change.  The high baroque style gave way to Handel, Tellemann, and Haydn.  Pachelbel's music was basically forgotten for two centuries.  Canon in D was forgotten until around 1970.  It was recorded by an artist interested in historical musicology and a radio station in San Francisco played it out of more or less academic interest.  They were flooded with calls requesting it, and the song was saved from obscurity.  It was included in the film Ordinary People, and so we can thank Hollywood for the world-wide resurgence of interest.

But like I said, he wrote a lot of works.  Perhaps half of those were Chorale Preludes - he was employed as organist at various churches and cathedrals (including St. Stefan's in Vienna).  Note that the term is "Chorale", not "Choral" - there are no sung parts here, rather they were a popular form of church music from the day.  As church organist, Pachelbel was expected to write new examples of this regularly.  This is the "real" Pachelbel, assuming that there is such a thing.

Here are some Pachelbel Canon in D takeoffs that are pretty funny.  Rob Paravonian's Pachelbel rant is hilarious, and has gotten 15 million views on Youtube:

And the Piano Guys have a fabulous version (20 million views):

Lastly, who knew that Procol Harum had gotten back together?  Their "Sunday Morning" song from their 2017 album Novus is based on Canon in D.  Rather appropriate for a Sunday morning.


LSP said...

And Procul Harum to boot. Well done!

libertyman said...

Today feels like Sunday, so that is my excuse for being a day late.
Fabulous post, very instructive, and I appreciate the extra music associated with it. In full disclosure, I had never heard his name spoken by anyone I knew, and so I mispronounced it, of course.
Thank you for doing this!

waepnedmann said...

Once again you have aided in my struggle to become couth..

A Reader said...

I love this music. My lovely bride walked down the aisle to the Canon in D.

In the past, I've described Beethoven's Ninth as the most beautiful music in the world, but I think I was wrong. This is more beautiful still, as is Handel's Messiah. It's a close race, though.