Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Canon in D   J. Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Susan Addington, Flute

[Anthem] Air on the G String   J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Susan Addington, Flute

[Offertory] Jesus, the very Thought of Thee


Neither the date nor the circumstances of Pachebel’s Canon in D are known (suggested dates range from 1680 to 1706), and the oldest surviving manuscript copy of the piece dates from the 19th century. The Canon, like Pachelbel’s other works, although popular during his lifetime, soon went out of style, and remained in obscurity for centuries. Originally scored for three violins and cello, a 1968 arrangement and recording of it by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra became unexpectedly popular over the next decade, and in the 1970s the piece began to be recorded by many ensembles; by the early 1980s its presence as background music was inescapable. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, elements of the piece, especially its chord progression, were used in a variety of pop music songs.

The circumstances of the piece’s composition are unknown. Hans-Joachim Schulze, writing in 1985, suggested that the piece may have been composed for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding, on 23 October 1694, which Pachelbel attended. (Johann Christoph Bach, J.S.Bach’s oldest brother, was a pupil of Pachelbel.) Johann Ambrosius Bach (J.S.Bach’s father), Pachelbel, and other friends and family provided music for the occasion.

Since it’s ‘rediscovery’, Pachelbel’s Canon in D has become one of the most famous pieces of classical music of all time.