Johann Pachelbel (1653 - 1706) - classical composer and organist

Johann Pachelbel - portrait Johann Pachelbel was born in and died in Nuremberg in Germany. He was a leading organist and composer during the baroque period, and an indirect musical influence on Johann Sebastian Bach. He was a friend of the Bach family and taught Johann Sebastian's older brother Johann Christoph Bach who in turn taught his younger brother. Pachelbel's career as organist included a post at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, and also at the courts of Eisenach and Stuttgart. Two of his sons (Wilhelm Hieronymus and Carl Theodore) were also destined to follow in Pachelbel's footsteps as organists and composers in their own right.

Johann Pachelbel: Canon & Gigue in D and Chamber Works by the London Baroque Pachelbel received a full musical education and by all accounts was a gifted musician. He also served as an organist while continuing his studies. Many aspects of his life have not been well documented but it is clear that he held a number of posts at various churches and cathedrals, and in courts in various parts of Germany. It was at one such post in Eisenach that he first met Johann Ambrosius Bach (J. S. Bach's father) and tutored Johann Christoph (J. S. Bach's older brother). In Erfurt he continued his close friendship with the Bach family particularly Johann Christian (a cousin in another branch of the Bach family) with whom he stayed for a time. When Johann Christian died in 1682, Pachelbel purchased the house from his widow. Soon afterwards Pachelbel married and started a family. Most of the posts he held involved composing, and he composed a steady stream of works during much of his life. Eventually he moved back to Nuremberg where he continued to compose until his death at the age of 53.

Johann Pachelbel's music

Pachelbel's music was also a foretaste of Bach's in some ways. He composed keyboard suites, toccatas, preludes, and a vast number of fugues for the organ. He also composed much chamber music for different combinations of instruments (including 6 suites for two violins) and choral works including motets and choral preludes. His music is said to have pioneered symbolism by using certain scales and chords to represent particular moods.

Wedding Sheet Music with roses By far his most famous work is the Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and Basso continuo. The Canon part of this work (often called simply "Canon in D" or "Pachelbel's Canon") is particularly popular and has been arranged and performed in diverse ways. The Canon is now firmly established as a classical favourite, frequently appearing on classical and "chillout" charts, and is very popular at Weddings. To represent Pachelbel's music on mfiles we have a total of 4 versions of "Canon in D" and each of these has downloads for the score, instrumental parts, midi and mp3 files:

And since it is one of our most popular downloads, here is the PDF download of Pachelbel's Canon in D arranged for Piano (opens in a new window).

Johann Pachelbel Recommendations on CD

Much of Pachelbel's music has been recorded in various forms but there is a strong focus on one particular work:

  • Pachelbel's Greatest Hit: The ultimate Canon (lots of arrangements of the Canon in D) - and
  • Pachelbel - Chamber Works (has the Canon & Gigue in D and a selection of other chamber works by Pachelbel performed by the London Baroque) - and
  • Pachelbel: Organ Works, Vol.1 (part 1 of a multi-volume collection, with preludes, toccatas, fugues and more performed by Wolfgang Rubsam) - and
  • Albinoni: Adagio/Pachelbel: Canon (2 baroque favourites which are often paired) and a selection of other baroque works by various composers - and