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Canon

Canon

Selected Composition

 

Pachelbel, Canon in D Major

 

Program Notes

 

Johann Pachelbel was born today in 1653. His music was beloved in his time, but, after his death in 1706, his works were neglected and forgotten. Many of his string quartets were lost.

 

But in 1968, the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra in France played, and then recorded, a long-forgotten piece of Pachelbel's, and they played it not as it had ever been played—not fast, not precisely, or mathematically: but slowly, thoughtfully, like a work of high Romanticism.

 

The world was mesmerized.

 

It still is. The work I am speaking of is, of course, Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. In the decades that followed Paillard's first recording, this piece has become so widely known and so beloved that it is often referred to simply as the Canon.

 

Scholars believe the Canon may have been written for the 1694 wedding of Johann Christoph Bach, the older brother of Johann Sebastian Bach—various composers, including J. S. Bach and Pachelbel, wrote music for the occasion (imagine being a guest at that wedding!). Johann Christoph Bach was a student of Pachelbel's, and Pachelbel himself attended the wedding.

 

Here is a link to the Paillard recording:

 

Pachelbel, Canon in D Major

 

 

Coda

 

The Canon in D is featured in the 1980 film Ordinary People. The pathos and sweet beauty of the Canon are fitting backdrops to the difficult film and the many broken hearts in it. The story is about a couple that had two sons, but the older son had drowned. The Mother mourns her dead son, who was her favorite, and she goes so far as to say that she wishes the reverse had happened: that the younger boy had drowned, not the older. The film begins with the younger boy running to a choir rehearsal, where they sing an arrangement of the Canon. That arrangement was the first time I ever heard the Canon, and, like all the world, I never forgot it.

 

 

 

 

I created "That Good Shall Fall," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Tennyson's In Memoriam (1849):


I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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