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Johann Pachelbel - Canon in D

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Johann Pachelbel (1653-1707) began his musical instruction in South Germany at an early age. His most famous work – his baroque Canon in D, is very popular for meditation, and has been reinterpreted many times, including some pop versions. Canon is often recognized but sometimes not known by its name or composer. It is very popular at weddings, especially in the USA.

Johann Pachelbel

A Canon (or Kanon) is when a piece of music is imitated and repeated. First one instrument or vocal starts with a piece of the melody. Then after a number of tones, a second instrument or vocal starts to repeat, or imitate, the first one, playing the exact same tones, but with a time delay. More instruments or vocals may fill in depending on the composer’s wishes.

Two versions of Canon in D are available from Yoga Technology. In Ra Ma Da Sa, Joseph Michael Levry (Gurunam) has ingeniously harmonized this healing mantra from Yogi Bhajan with the soothing harmonies of Pachelbel. In Meditative Pachelbel, Liv and Let Liv (Liv Singh and Livtar Singh) offer 3 meditative variations, played against a relaxing backdrop of ocean surf, to create a space of sanctuary and tranquility.

Pachelbel’s studies took him to Nuremburg, Altdorf, and Regensburg, before moving to Vienna in 1671, where he became student and deputy organist to Kerll at the Imperial chapel. In 1677 he moved to Eisenach - the city of Bach's birth some eight years later – where he became organist.

In 1690 he moved again, this time to become court organist at Stuttgart. Two years later he took his final post, in Nuremburg. His wide repertory, particularly his technique of chorale variation, is thought to have been inspirational to the great J. S. Bach, who was a known admirer.

Johann Pachelbel was a prolific composer, and wrote both free works (toccatas, fantasies, fugues, etc.) and also chorale settings. His development of the "cantus firmus" chorale is thought to be his greatest contribution, consisting of the chorale melody in long notes, one phrase at a time, each phrase preceded by fore-imitation in the accompanying voices. This compositional pattern was adopted by many other composers and eventually became a standard form.