Thursday, September 1, 8653

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) - Canon - Cello

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Canon for Three Violins and Cello in D

Faster Early Music Group

Slower Full String Orchestra

Johann Pachelbel (in German, pronounced (baptized September 1, 1653 - buried March 9, 1706) was a German Baroque 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 work 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, the only canon he wrote. In addition to the canon, his most well-known works include the Chaconne in F Minor, the Toccata in E Minor for organ, and the Hexachordum Apollinis, a set of keyboard variations.

Pachelbel's music was influenced by southern German composers, such as Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Kaspar Kerll, Italians such as Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro Poglietti, French composers, and the composers of the Nuremberg tradition. Pachelbel preferred a lucid, uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasized melodic and harmonic clarity. His music is less virtuosic and less adventurous harmonically than that of Dieterich Buxtehude, although, like Buxtehude, Pachelbel experimented with different ensembles and instrumental combinations in his chamber music and, most importantly, his vocal music, much of which features exceptionally rich instrumentation. Pachelbel explored many variation forms and associated techniques, which manifest themselves in various diverse pieces, from sacred concertos to harpsichord suites.

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

Johann Pachelbel was born in 1653 in Nuremberg into a middle class family, son of Johann (Hans) Pachelbel (1613 in Wunsiedel, Germany), a wine dealer, and his second wife Anna (Anne) Maria Mair. The exact date of Johann's birth is unknown, but since he was baptized on September 1, he may have been born in late August.

During his early youth, Pachelbel received musical training from Heinrich Schwemmer, a musician and music teacher who later became the cantor of St. Sebaldus Church (Sebalduskirche). Some sources indicate that Pachelbel also studied with Georg Caspar Wecker, organist of the same church and an important composer of the Nuremberg school, but this is now considered unlikely. In any case, both Wecker and Schwemmer were trained by Johann Erasmus Kindermann, one of the founders of the Nuremberg musical tradition, who had been at one time a pupil of Johann Staden.

Johann Mattheson, whose Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte (Hamburg, 1740) is one of the most important sources of information about Pachelbel's life, mentions that the young Pachelbel demonstrated exceptional musical and academic abilities. He received his primary education in St. Lorenz Hauptschule and the Auditorio Aegediano in Nuremberg, then on 1669-06-29 became a student at the University of Altdorf, where he was also appointed organist of St. Lorenz church the same year. Financial difficulties forced Pachelbel to leave the university after less than a year. In order to complete his studies he became a scholarship student, in 1670, at the Gymnasium Poeticum at Regensburg. The school authorities there were so impressed by Pachelbel's academic qualifications that he was admitted above the school's normal quota.

Pachelbel was also permitted to study music outside the Gymnasium. His teacher was Kaspar (Caspar) Prentz, once a student of Johann Kaspar Kerll. Since the latter was greatly influenced by Italian composers such as Giacomo Carissimi, it is likely through Prentz that Pachelbel started developing an interest in contemporary Italian music, and Catholic church music in general.

Prentz left for Eichstätt in 1672. This period of Pachelbel's life is the least documented one, so it is unknown whether he stayed in Regensburg until 1673 or left the same year his teacher did; at any rate, by 1673 Pachelbel was living in Vienna, where he became a deputy organist at the famous Saint Stephen Cathedral (Stephansdom). At the time, Vienna was the center of the vast Habsburg empire and had much cultural importance; its tastes in music were predominantly Italian. Several renowned cosmopolitan composers worked there, many of them contributing to the exchange of musical traditions in Europe. In particular, Johann Jakob Froberger served as court organist in Vienna until 1657 and was succeeded by Alessandro Poglietti.

Georg Muffat lived in the city for some time, and, most importantly, Johann Kaspar Kerll moved to Vienna in 1673.

While there, he may have known or even taught Pachelbel, whose music shows traces of Kerll's style. Pachelbel spent five years in Vienna, absorbing the music of Catholic composers from southern Germany and Italy, whose styles contrasted with the more strict Lutheran tradition he was bred in. In some respects, Pachelbel is similar to Haydn, who too served as a professional musician of the Stephansdom in his youth and as such was exposed to music of the leading composers of the time.

In 1677, Pachelbel moved to Eisenach, where he found employment as court organist under Kapellmeister Daniel Eberlin (also a native of Nuremberg), in the employ of Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach. He met members of the Bach family in Eisenach (which was the home city of J. S. Bach's father, Johann Ambrosius Bach), and became a close friend of Johann Ambrosius and tutor to his children.

However, Pachelbel spent only one year in Eisenach. In 1678, Bernhard II, Duke of Saxe-Jena, Johann Georg's brother, died and during the period of mourning court musicians were greatly curtailed. Pachelbel was left unemployed. He requested a testimonial from Eberlin, who wrote one for him, describing Pachelbel as a 'perfect and rare virtuoso' -- einen perfecten und raren Virtuosen.

With this document, Pachelbel left Eisenach on May 18, 1678.

In June 1678, Pachelbel was employed as organist of the Lutheran Preacher's Church (Predigerkirche) in Erfurt, succeeding Johann Effler (c1640–1711; Effler later preceded Johann Sebastian Bach in Weimar). The Bach family was very well known in Erfurt (where virtually all organists would later be called "Bachs"), so Pachelbel's friendship with them continued here.

Pachelbel became godfather to Johann Ambrosius' daughter, Johanna Juditha, taught Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), Johann Sebastian's eldest brother, and lived in Johann Christian Bach's (1640-1682) house.

Pachelbel remained in Erfurt for 12 years and established his reputation as one of the leading German organ composers of the time during his stay. The chorale prelude became one of his most characteristic products of the Erfurt period, since Pachelbel's contract specifically required him to compose the preludes for church services.

His duties also included organ maintenance and, more importantly, composing a large-scale work every year to demonstrate his progress as composer and organist, as every work of that kind had to be better than the one composed the year before.

Johann Christian Bach, Pachelbel's landlord in Erfurt, died in 1682. In June 1684, Pachelbel purchased the house (called Zur silbernen Tasche, now Junkersand 1) from Johann Christian's widow.

In 1686, he was offered a position as organist of the St. Trinitatis church (Trinitatiskirche) in Sondershausen. Pachelbel initially accepted the invitation but, as a surviving autograph letter indicates, had to reject the offer after a long series of negotiations: it appears that he was required to consult with Erfurt's elders and church authorities before considering any job offers.

It seems that the situation has been resolved quietly and without harm to Pachelbel's reputation; he was offered a raise and stayed in the city for four more years.

Pachelbel married twice during his stay in Erfurt. Barbara Gabler, daughter of the Stadt-Major of Erfurt, became his first wife, on October 25, 1681. The marriage took place in the house of the bride's father. Unfortunately, both Barbara and their only son died in October 1683 during a plague. Pachelbel's first published work, a set of chorale variations called Musicalische Sterbens-Gedancken (Musical Thoughts on Death, Erfurt, 1683), was probably influenced by this event.

Ten months later, Pachelbel married Judith Drommer (Trummert), daughter of a coppersmith, on August 24, 1684. They had five sons and two daughters. Two of the sons, Wilhelm Hieronymus Pachelbel and Charles Theodore Pachelbel, also became organ composers, the latter moved to the American colonies in 1734. Another son, Johann Michael, became an instrument maker in Nuremberg and travelled as far as London and Jamaica.

One of the daughters, Amalia Pachelbel, achieved recognition as painter and engraver.

Although Johann Pachelbel was an outstandingly successful organist, composer, and teacher at Erfurt, he asked permission to leave, apparently seeking a better appointment, and was formally released on 15 August 1690, bearing a testimonial praising his diligence and fidelity.

He was employed almost immediately: from September 1, 1690, he was a musician-organist in the Württemberg court at Stuttgart under the patronage of Duchess Magdalena Sibylla. That job was better, but, unfortunately, he lived there only two years before fleeing the French attacks of the War of the Grand Alliance. His next job was in Gotha as the town organist, a post he occupied for two years, starting on 8 November 1692; there he published his first, and only, liturgical music collection: Acht Chorale zum Praeambulieren in 1693 (Erster Theil etlicher Choräle).

When former pupil Johann Christoph Bach married in October 1694, the Bach family celebrated the marriage on 23 October 1694 in Ohrdruf, and invited him and other composers to provide the music; he probably attended -- if so, it was the only time J.S. Bach, then nine years old, met Johann Pachelbel.

In his three years in Gotha, he was twice offered positions, in Stuttgart and at Oxford University; he declined both. Meanwhile, in Nuremberg, when the St. Sebaldus Church organist Georg Caspar Wecker (and his possible former teacher) died on 20 April 1695, the city authorities were so anxious to appoint Pachelbel (then a famous Nuremberger) to the position that they officially invited him to assume it without holding the usual job examination or inviting applications from prominent organists from lesser churches. He accepted, was released from Gotha in 1695, and arrived in Nuremberg in summer, with the city council paying his per diem expenses.

Johann Pachelbel lived the rest of his life in Nuremberg, during which he published the chamber music collection Musikalische Ergötzung, and the Hexachordum Apollinis (Nuremberg, 1699), a set of six keyboard arias with variations. Though most influenced by Italian and southern German composers, he knew the northern German school, because he dedicated the Hexachordum Apollinis to Dieterich Buxtehude. Also composed in the final years were Italian-influenced concertato Vespers and a set of more than ninety Magnificat fugues.
In 1706, Johann Pachelbel died at the age of 52, his exact death date unknown, and was buried on 9 March; Mattheson cites either the 3rd or the 7th of March 1706 as the death date; yet, it is unlikely that the corpse was allowed to linger unburied so long. Contemporary custom was burying the dead on the third or fourth post-mortem day; so, either the 6th or the 7th of March 1706 is likelier death date.

ohann Pachelbel is buried in the St. Rochus Cemetery.

One of the last middle Baroque composers, Pachelbel did not have any considerable influence on most of the famous late Baroque composers, such as George Frideric Handel, Domenico Scarlatti or Georg Philipp Telemann. He did influence Johann Sebastian Bach indirectly; the young Johann Sebastian was tutored by his older brother Johann Christoph Bach, who studied with Pachelbel, but although JS Bach's early chorales and chorale variations borrow from Pachelbel's music, the style of northern German composers (Georg Böhm, Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Adam Reincken) played a more important role in the development of Bach's talent.

Pachelbel was the last great composer of the Nuremberg tradition and the last important southern German composer. Pachelbel's influence was mostly limited to his pupils, most notably Johann Christoph Bach, Johann Heinrich Buttstett, Andreas Nicolaus Vetter, and two of Pachelbel's sons, Wilhelm Hieronymus and Charles Theodore. The latter became one of the first European composers to take up residence in the American colonies and so Pachelbel influenced, although indirectly and only to a certain degree, the American church music of the era. Composer, musicologist and writer Johann Gottfried Walther is probably the most famous of the composers influenced by Pachelbel - he is, in fact, referred to as the "second Pachelbel" in Mattheson's Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte.

As the Baroque style went out of fashion during the 18th century, the majority of Baroque and pre-Baroque composers were virtually forgotten. Local organists in Nuremberg and Erfurt knew Pachelbel's music and occasionally performed it, but the public and the majority of composers and performers did not pay much attention to Pachelbel and his contemporaries. In the first half of the 19th century, some organ works by Pachelbel were published and several musicologists started considering him an important composer, particularly Philipp Spitta, who was one of the first researchers to trace Pachelbel's role in the development of Baroque keyboard music. Much of Pachelbel's work was published in the early 20th century in the Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich series, but it was not until the rise of interest in early Baroque music in the middle of the 20th century and the advent of historically-informed performance practice and associated research that Pachelbel's works began to be studied extensively and again performed more frequently.

Pachelbel's Canon in D Major, a piece of chamber music scored for three violins and basso continuo and originally paired with a gigue in the same key, experienced a tremendous surge in popularity during the 1970's (believed to have originated through a recording by Jean-François Paillard in 1970), which made it a universally recognized cultural item; it is one of the most recognized and famous classical compositions. Numerous musical adaptations and arrangements of the canon for diverse ensembles exist and the main theme (or the associated harmonic sequence) is frequently adapted by pop music artists, much like the opening of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565. The gigue that originally accompanied the canon never received the same amount of popularity, even though it is a lively energetic dance.


The violoncello (abbreviated to cello, or 'cello, plural cellos or celli -- the c is pronounced as in the ch in "checkers", thus "Chell-lo") is a bowed string instrument. A person who plays a cello is called a cellist. The cello is used as a solo instrument, in chamber music, and as a member of the string section of an orchestra.

The name cello is an abbreviation of the Italian violoncello, which means "little violone", most probably not referring to the double bass but instead to the slightly larger (and now uncommon) instrument the bass violin which was sometimes tuned a whole step lower than the cello. Cellos are tuned in fifths, starting with C2 (two octaves below middle C) as the lowest string, followed by G3, D4, and A4. It is tuned the same way as the viola, only an octave lower.

The cello is most closely associated with European classical music, and has been described as the closest sounding instrument to the human voice.

The instrument is a part of the standard orchestra and is the bass voice of the string quartet, as well as being part of many other chamber groups. A large number of concertos and sonatas have been written for the cello.

The cello is typically made from wood, although other materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum may be used. A traditional cello has a spruce top, with maple for the back, sides, and neck. Other woods, such as poplar or willow, are sometimes used for the back and sides. Less expensive cellos frequently have tops and backs made of laminated wood.

The top and back are traditionally hand-carved, though less expensive cellos are often machine-produced. The sides, or ribs, are made by heating the wood and bending it around forms. The cello body has a wide top bout, narrow middle formed by two C-bouts, and wide bottom bout, with the bridge and sound holes just below the middle.

The top and back of the cello has decorative border inlay known as purfling.

Above the main body is the carved neck, which leads to a pegbox and the scroll. The neck, pegbox, and scroll are normally carved out of a single piece of wood. Attached to the neck and extending over the body of the instrument is the fingerboard. The nut is a raised piece of wood, where the fingerboard meets the pegbox, which the strings rest on. The pegbox houses four tuning pegs, one for each string. The pegs are used to tune the cello by either tightening or loosening the string. The scroll is a traditional part of the cello and all other members of the violin family. Ebony is usually used for the tuning pegs, fingerboard, and nut, but other hard woods, such as boxwood or rosewood, can be used.

Strings on a cello have cores made out of gut, metal, or synthetic materials, such as Perlon.

Most modern strings used today are also wound with metallic materials like aluminum, titanium and chromium. Cellists may mix different types of strings on their instruments.

The tailpiece and endpin are found in the lower part of the cello. The tailpiece is traditionally made of ebony or another hard wood, but can also be made of plastic or steel. It attaches the strings to the lower end of the cello, and can have one or more fine tuners. The endpin or spike is made of wood, metal or rigid carbon fiber and supports the cello in playing position. In the Baroque period the cello was held between the calves. Around the 1830s, the Belgian cellist Auguste Adrien Servais introduced the endpin and propagated its use. Modern endpins are retractable and adjustable; older ones were removed when not in use. (The word "endpin" also refers to the button of wood located at this place in all instruments in the violin family.) The sharp tip of the cello's endpin is sometimes capped with a rubber tip that protects the tip from dulling and prevents the cello from slipping on the floor.

The bridge holds the strings above the cello and transfers their vibrations to the top of the instrument and the soundpost inside (see below). The bridge is not glued, but rather held in place by the tension of the strings. The f-holes, named for their shape, are located on either side of the bridge, and allow air to move in and out of the instrument as part of the sound-production process. The f-holes also act as access points to the interior of the cello for repairs or maintenance. Sometimes a small hose containing a water-soaked sponge, called a Dampit, is inserted through the f-holes, and serves as a humidifier.

Internally, the cello has two important features: a bass bar, which is glued to the underside of the top of the instrument, and a round wooden sound post, which is wedged between the top and bottom plates. The bass bar, found under the bass foot of the bridge, serves to support the cello's top and distribute the vibrations. The sound post, found under the treble side of the bridge, connects the back and front of the cello. Like the bridge, the sound post is not glued, but is kept in place by the tensions of the bridge and strings. Together, the bass bar and sound post transfer the strings' vibrations to the top (front) of the instrument (and to a lesser extent the back), acting as a diaphragm to produce the instrument's sound.

Cellos are constructed and repaired using hide glue, which is strong but reversible, allowing for disassembly when needed. Tops may be glued on with diluted glue, since some repairs call for the removal of the top. Theoretically, hide glue is weaker than the body's wood, so as the top or back shrinks side-to-side, the glue holding it will let go, avoiding a crack in the plate.

Traditionally, bows are made from pernambuco or brazilwood. Both come from the same species of tree (Caesalpina echinata), but pernambuco, used for higher-quality bows, is the heartwood of the tree and is darker in color than brazilwood (which is sometimes stained to compensate). Pernambuco is a heavy, resinous wood with great elasticity which makes it an ideal wood for instrument bows.

Bow sticks are also made from carbon-fiber, which is stronger than wood. Inexpensive, low-quality student bows are often made from fiberglass. An average cello bow is 73 cm long (shorter than a violin or viola bow) 3 cm high (from the frog to the stick) and 1.5 cm wide. The frog of a cello bow typically has a rounded corner like that of a viola bow, but is wider. A cello bow is roughly 10 grams heavier than a viola bow, which in turn is roughly 10 g heavier than a violin bow.

The bow hair is horsehair, though synthetic hair in different colors is also available. The hair is coated with rosin by the player to make it grip the strings and cause them to vibrate. Bows need to be re-haired periodically, especially if the hairs break frequently or lose their gripping quality. The hair is kept under tension while playing by a screw which pulls the frog (the part of the bow under the hand) back.

The cello developed from the bass violin, first referred to by Jambe de Fer in 1556, which was originally a three-string instrument. The first instance of a composer specifying the bass violin may have been Gabrieli in Sacrae symphoniae, 1597.

Monteverdi referred to the instrument as "basso de viola da braccio" in Orfeo (1607). Although the first bass violin, possibly invented by Amati as early as 1538, was most likely inspired by the viol, it was created to be used in consorts with the violin. The bass violin was actually often referred to as a "violone," or "large viola," as were the viols of the same period. Instruments that share features with both the bass violin and the viola de gamba appear in Italian art of the early 1500s...

The invention of wire-wound strings (fine wire around a thin gut core), around 1660 in Bologna, allowed for a finer bass sound than was possible with purely gut strings on such a short body. Bolognese makers exploited this new technology to create the cello, a somewhat smaller instrument suitable for solo repertoire due to both the timbre of the instrument and the fact that the smaller size made it easier to play virtuosic passages. This instrument had disadvantages as well, however. The cello's light sound was not as suitable for church and ensemble playing, so it had to be doubled by basses or violones.

[8659 Purcell / 8653 Pachelbel / 8653 Corelli]