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Johann Pachelbel 

1653 - 1706

Johann Pachelbel (baptised September 1, 1653 – buried March 9, 1706) was a German composer, organist, and teacher 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.

Pachelbel's music enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany. Today, Pachelbel is best known for the Canon in D, as well as the Chaconne in F minor, the Toccata in E minor for organ, and the Hexachordum Apollinis, a set of keyboard variations.

Johann Pachelbel

(b. Nuremberg, September 1, 1653; d. Nuremberg, March 9, 1706)

German composer and organist. He was one of the most important figures in German music of the generation before Bach, but is known today almost exclusively for a single piece—actually, half a piece— his Canon in D, originally for three violins and continuo. Were it not for this one composition, his fame might never have spread beyond musicological circles, despite his important contributions to the Baroque organ repertoire and to Protestant liturgical music in particular. An outstanding student with broad intellectual horizons, he received the bulk of his musical education in Regensburg and Vienna, where he was exposed to the work of leading Catholic composers of southern Germany and Italy. He was a celebrated church organist and held several important positions during his career, beginning with a post as deputy at St. Stephen’s in Vienna (1673-77), and culminating in his appointment in 1695 as organist at the cathedral of St. Sebaldus in his native Nuremberg, a title he held until the end of his life.

Pachelbel composed a sizable amount of music for the organ, for both liturgical and nonliturgical use, as well as keyboard suites, German and Latin motets, and more than a dozen settings of the Magnificat. While he was capable of composing in the most rigorous contrapuntal styles, he preferred a more direct, uncomplicated manner. His Canon in D, one of the few chamber pieces ascribed to him, shows this style to good effect. Although called a canon, it is also a chaconne—a series of embellishments on a repeating melodic line in the bass.

St. Sebaldus Church in Nuremberg, which played an important role in Pachelbel's life

Like Allegri, whose famed Miserere eclipsed everything else he achieved in his career, Johaim Pachelbel's name is automatically linked to the ever-popular three-part Canon in D. Born in Nuremberg in the autumn of 1653, Pachelbel showed an early appetite for learning. In addition to school, he had two music teachers, one who introduced him to the fundamentals of music while the other taught him to play and compose. He was briefly at the University of Altdorf before taking a position in 1673 as assistant organist at the cathedral of St Stephen in Vienna. Four years later he became the court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Eisenach. He became restless here, and requesting a letter of reference from his employers, left after a year. His reference described him as a "rare and perfect virtuoso."

Subsequently Pachelbel became the organist at the Erfurt Predigerkirche, where he spent 12 happy years. His first wife succumbed to the plague, but within a year he had remarried and subsequently had seven children. This period was a time of increasing contentment and creative growth. In 1690, he became organist in Stuttgart at the Wurttemberg Court. The threat of a French invasion curtailed this position two years later, and Pachelbel returned to his home town of Nuremberg to take up the post of organist at St Sebald. There he lived out his final decade writing ever more imposing works.

It is not known when Pachelbel composed his famous Canon. The work is scored for three violins and continue», each violin entering in turn and elaborating on a simple theme as the piece gathers in strength and builds to a climax. But Pachelbel's importance is, in fact, perhaps greater as a composer for the organ; his chorale preludes, based on hymn tunes, strongly influenced J.S. Bach. He was also the author of a great many motets, arias, and Masses, and 13 Magnificats which feature solo singers and a choir as well as an orchestra often including wind and brass. His body of work reflects the cultural contrasts between his own Protestant ways and those of the higher Church, and certainly deserves to be known at least as well as his celebrated Canon.

Pachelbel's tomb at the St. Rochus Cemetery (Rochuskirchhof) in Nuremberg

Key Works

Canon in D, Original Version

Canon In D - 1 Hour Version

Chorale Preludes

00:20 Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein (Setting 1)
01:57 Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein (Setting 2)
08:09 Ach Herr, mich armen Sunder (Setting 1)
09:58 Ach Herr, mich armen Sunder (Setting 1)
14:26 Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (Setting 1)
16:59 Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (Setting 2)
21:05 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
23:46 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir
25:30 Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott

Prelude and Fugue in D minor - Toccata and Fugue in G major

Organ Works I

01. Prelude in D 6:13
02. Fugue in D 2:37
03. Ricercar in C 6:31
04. Meine Seele Erhebt Den Herren 1:21
05. Von Himmel Hoch, Da Komm Ich Her 1:35
06. Allein Gott In Der Hoh Sei Ehr 2:34
07. Gelobet Seist Du, Jesu Christ 1:34
08. Wie Schon Leuchtet Der Morgenstern 3:21
09. Fantasia in D 1:59
10. Fantasia in A 1:46
11. Ciacona in F 9:53
12. Fantasia in G 2:58
13. Praeludium et Fuga in e 2:28
14. Toccata in C 2:40
15. Toccata in G 1:45
16. Fugue in G 2:10
17. Toccata in e 2:03
18. Fugue in e 2:26

Organ Works  II

00:00 - Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder
02:06 - Arietta & Variations in F Major
12:15 - Chaconne for organ in D major
21:55 - Ciaccona for organ in D minor
27:09 - Ciacona in F Minor
34:35 - Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott
39:10 - Fantasia in D minor
41:11 - Fantasia in G minor
44:27 - Fugue in C Major
46:58 - Fugues on the Magnificat primi toni - I
48:46 - Fugues on the Magnificat primi toni - II
50:52 - Fugues on the Magnificat primi toni - III
52:35 - Fugues on the Magnificat primi toni - IX
54:53 - Fugues on the Magnificat secundi toni - II
56:16 - Fugues on the Magnificat septimi toni - II
58:16 - Fugues on the Magnificat sexti toni - VI.3
01:00:06 - Fugues on the Magnificat sexti toni - VI.6
01:02:03 - Fugues on the Magnificat sexti toni - VI.7
01:03:51 - Fugues on the Magnificat sexti toni - VI.9
01:05:00 - Fugues on the Magnificat sexti toni - VI.10
01:06:36 - In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr
01:08:19 - Jesus Christus, unser Heiland der von uns
01:11:37 - Kommt Her Zu Mir
01:13:30 - Meine Seele erhebt den Herren
01:15:01 - Prelude and Fugue in D minor - Fugue
01:17:18 - Prelude and Fugue in D minor - Prelude
01:22:34 - Toccata & Fugue in F Major - 1. Toccata
01:25:01 - Toccata & Fugue in F Major - 2. Fugue
01:26:56 - Toccata, Prelude & Fugue for organ in E minor (Toccata)
01:28:39 - Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her (I)
01:30:28 - Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

Motetten und Kantaten

Chamber Works

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