Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major

San Francisco based renaissance and baroque music ensemble Voices of Music perform Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. The piece remained forgotten for centuries like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, and was rediscovered only in the 20th century, and became extremely popular.

Note: The baroque pitch used here; A=415.3 Hz; modern pitch is usually 440 Hz. So it sounds like D-flat here. The Voices of Music version based on the earliest original manuscript and performed on instruments from the time of the German composer, organist and teacher Johann Pachelbel (baptised September 1, 1653 – buried March 9, 1706).

Voice of Music perform Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major.

A Canon (or Kanon) is a contrapuntal compositional technique characterized by imitation and repetition. First one instrument or vocal introduces a part of the melody. Then, after a number of tones, a second instrument or vocal starts to repeat, or imitate, the first melody, playing the exact same tones, but with a time delay. More instruments or vocals may then be added, depending on the composer’s wishes.

Pachelbel composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his creations enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany.

Pachelbel composed this Canon as early as 1680. But, in the following centuries, the piece has been forgotten. It was rediscovered and first published in 1919 by scholar Gustav Beckmann. Since then, the piece became more and more popular. After appearing in Ordinary People, the 1980 American drama film that marked the directorial debut of actor Robert Redford, its popularity boosted.

Pachelbel’s canon was particularly prevalent in the pop charts of the 1990’s, being sampled and appropriated in numerous commercial hits such as Pet Shop Boys cover of “Go West“, Coolio’s “C U When U Get There“, Green Day’s “Basket Case“, and Dire Straits’ “Tunnel of love“. It is frequently played at weddings and included on classical music compilations.