When discussing music for their wedding, one of the first requests I get from brides or grooms-to-be is Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. “Paca-whatsit’s cannon”, as one bashful bride called it, is one of the most popular choices for people’s special day. After being requested to play it for at least the 4th time on solo violin this year, I thought I ought to write a short blog about the canon, to clear up some confusion and give a background to such a well-known “classical” piece.
The canon was written by Johann Pachelbel, a German composer from the Baroque period (1700-1850). It was originally written for 3 violins and basso continuo to fit alongside an accompanying Gigue. The canon has since been arranged for a huge variety of instrumental combinations. It was rediscovered in the early 1900s, was first recorded in 1940 and made famous by the Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra. Since then it has been recorded, sampled and played in many different guises of popular culture: from the films The Wedding Planner and Runaway Bride to programmes Smallville, The Simpsons and My Name is Earl to Go West by the Pet Shop Boys!
A canon cannot be played by one instrument. It involves several voices or instrumental parts playing the same part at staggered intervals and is often underpinned by a bass ostinato. In the Canon in D’s case, this is a repeated pattern of 2 bars. I have played it with violin and harp, violin and piano, as a violin duo and of course the popular wedding string quartet. The beauty of the parts weaving in and out of one another is appealing to everyone, whatever the instrument. And, as it repeats the same chord structure over every 2 bars, the nearly 7 minute long piece can very easily be tailored to any length of wedding aisle, with the ability to cut it short to a chord of D within a few bars!
So the moral of the blog? We all love a bit of Pachelbel’s canon. It’s synonymous with wedding music. But it’s not a solo piece, full stop!
POST TITLE: Pachelbel’s Canon
AUTHOR: Jenny Maslin
POSTED: 12th June 2012
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