Johann Pachelbel

(Baptized September 1, 1653 – buried March 9, 1706) was a German Baroque composer, organist and teacher. His works was very popular during his lifetime; He is a popular teacher and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany.

Johann Mattheson mentions that the young Pachelbel demonstrated exceptional musical and academic abilities. He studied at St. Lorenz high school, but soon his father recognized his music potential, so he arranged for his son to receive outside musical training from two leading instructors: Heinrich Schwemmer and organist Georg Caspar Wecker. He 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 were so impressed by Pachelbel's academic qualifications that he was admitted above the school's normal quota. They also made special arrangements for him to study music outside of the gymnasium with Kaspar Prentz, He introduced Pachelbel to Italian music.

Prentz left Regensburg in 1672, and soon after, in 1673, Pachelbel decided to travel to Vienna. There he was immersed in the works of Catholic composers from Italy and southern Germany. Johann Kaspar Kerll also moved to Vienna in 1673, he may have known or even taught Pachelbel, whose music shows traces of Kerll's style. Pachelbel stay in Vienna caused him to absorb the music of Catholic composers from southern Germany and Italy, whose styles contrasted with the more strict Lutheran tradition he was bred in.

In 1677, Pachelbel moved to Eisenach, where he found employment as court organist under Kapellmeister Daniel Eberlin, in the employ of Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach. He met members of the Bach family in Eisenach, and became a close friend of Johann Ambrosius and tutor to his children. . 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.

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.

Pachelbel's Married Life

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. 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,[17] 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.


Pachelbel was best known as organ composer. He wrote more than two hundred pieces for the instrument, both liturgical and secular, and explored most of the genres that existed at the time. 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.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 played a more important role in the development of Bach's talent.

Much of Pachelbel's liturgical organ music, particularly the chorale preludes, is relatively simple and written for manuals only, no pedal is required. This is partly due to Lutheran religious practice where congregants sang the chorales. Only two volumes of Pachelbel's organ music were published and distributed during his lifetime: Musikalische Sterbens-Gedancken (Musical Thoughts on Death; Erfurt, 1683) – a set of chorale variations in memory of his deceased wife and child, and Acht Choräle (Nuremberg, 1693). Pachelbel employed white mensural notation when writing out numerous compositions (several chorales, all ricercars, some fantasias); a notational system that uses hollow note heads and omits bar lines (measure delimiters). In most cases Pachelbel used white notation for pieces composed in old-fashioned styles, to provide artistic integrity.

Canon is his most popular work, his most highly regarded work is the Hexachordum Apollinis. Others include: 95 magnificat fugues, 60 organ chorales, 16 toccatas, 7 preludes,3 ricercars, 6 fantasias, 26 non-liturgical fugues, 6 ciacconas, 17 keyboard suites, 8 keyboard variations, 3 keyboard arias with variations, 3 pieces for chamber orchestra, 19 arias, 11 motets (9 in German), 11 sacred concertos, 25 magnificats & ingressi for Vespers, 2 masses


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