Johann Pachelbel – the Baroque One Hit Wonder

Extract from Johann Pachelberg’s work
“Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden”

On September 1, 1653, German Baroque composer, organist and teacher Johann Pachelbel was born. It was Pachelbel, who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era. Today, almost a single piece of his musical legacy has survived and is still quite popular: the Canon in D – making Pachelbel seemingly to some kind of Baroque One Hit Wonder.

Even though Pachelbel’s exact birth date is not known, it is estimated to be September 1. However, he received a good musical education in his early childhood and excelled in everything he started. He enrolled at the University of Altdorf in 1669, where he also became an organist. From there, the musician is known to have traveled from city to city. He continued his education in Regensburg, where he again impressed everyone with his knowledge and talent. In the early 1670s Pachelbel moved to Vienna where he continued his organist career and got highly influenced by the city’s culture and the Italian music. Pachelbel left for Eisenach where he was employed by Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach and got to meet various members of the Bach family. They established a friendship, wherefore Pachelbel continued his career in Erfurt. The Bach’s were very well known there and enjoyed a great influence, which was also helpful to Pachelbel. In 1694 it is believed that he met Johann Sebastian Bach, then nine years old for the first time.

In the following years, he was offered several high positions from across Europe, but declined all to stay in Nuremberg, where he lived for the rest of his life. It is assumed that Pachelbel influenced the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and through some of students, who took residence in American colonies , Pachelbel also had influence on the church music across the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately for Pachelbel, the Baroque style went out of fashion pretty soon and only few of his works stayed in people’s minds.

In the 1970s, his Canon in D major, a chamber music experienced an enormous popularity. It is assumed that a recoding by Jean-François Paillard led to this sudden success and transferred the piece into a cultural icon. The music became also known through the Oscar winning movie ‘Ordinary People’ in 1980, which was also Robert Redford’s directional debut. Pachelbel’s masterpiece is now popular during wedding ceremonies and other emotional moments. Next to this famous work, Pachelbel became known as an organ composer and created over two hundred musical pieces. Less known are his vocal music compositions even though he wrote almost a hundred of them.

At yovisto, you may enjoy Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D major.

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