This site celebrates Johann Pachelbel and his most famous piece of music – the Canon, heard at thousands of weddings and funerals across Europe, UK and the USA. Even though it was written more than 300 years ago, Pachelbel’s Canon lives on as a beautiful piece of music in its own right, and as the basis for hundreds of new pieces of music and modern songs.
Pachelbel’s Canon was probably written in modern-day Germany in the late 1600s, but it has been made popular by an American conductor in the 1940s. For the first 250 years of its life, Pachelbel’s piece appears to have been entirely forgotten. That is, until the 20th century, when a scholar researching early German keyboard music published an edition of the piece in the 1920s. Then, just before the Second World War, a long-forgotten conductor called Arthur Fiedler began featuring it with his orchestra in their classical pops concerts. And they can even take the credit for having made the first ever commercial recording.
By thirty years on, Pachelbel’s canon is a hit – and when Robert Redford featured it in his film Ordinary People, the piece’s popularity was sealed. There are all sorts of arrangements, adaptations, mutations and variations. And of course the music has a hypnotic feel – joyful and reflective at the same time – which has made it a popular choice at weddings and funerals, and everything else in between. It has even inspired a Nobel Peace Prize Winner: the Burmese politician and campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi described it as music representing resilience and tranquility when she chose it as one of her Desert Island Discs for the BBC.