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Pachelbel’s Canon in D: The Best Known Classical Piece of All Time

Updated on April 29, 2016

Pachelbel's Canon in D Original Manuscript

This is an image of the oldest surviving copy of Johann Pachelbel's "Canon and Gigue in D major".
This is an image of the oldest surviving copy of Johann Pachelbel's "Canon and Gigue in D major".

The world has seen many composers come and go, but few have written music that have live on centuries after their death. Johannes Pachelbel is one such composer - and his his work is Canon and Gigue for three violins and basso continuo, which is more commonly known as Canon in D. This work has endured the test of time and carved a most certain place for Pachelbel for centuries to come.

Pachelbel's Canon in D (without the accompanying gigue) was first published by Gustav Beckman in 1919 when he included the score in his article on the composer's chamber music. Twenty-one years later the score was first recorded by Arthur Fielder, the renowned conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra.

Several decades later Canon in D experienced another significant change in fortune, when the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra recorded the work in 1968. This performance was conceived in a more Romantic style, and performed at a significantly slower tempo. The recording also included obligato parts, written by the conductor, that have become a valued addition in recent years. Two years after the release of the recording a San Francisco based classical radio station played the Paillard chamber orchestra recording and was inundated by listener requests.


Because of the growing interest in the Canon in D, London Records reissued their 1961 recording, Corelli Christmas Concerto. Re-titled as the Pachelbel Kanon: The Record That Made it Famous and other Baroque Favorites, it became the best selling classical music album of 1976.

Canon in D has also recieved considerable attention by the popular music community, whether played in it's entirety or in part. Recordings like “Basket Case” by Green Day, ‘Let It Be” by The Beatles, “Sk8ter Boy” by Avril Lavigne, “With or Without You” by U2, and “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley are just a few of the many songs which have been inspired by Pachelbel’s famous work. Even famous brands like Coca-Cola, and Pantene have used Pachelbel's Canon in D in their commercials.

It may have taken a few centuries to get there, without social media on it's side at first, but Pachelbel's Canon in D has proven that good music always finds an important place in history regardless of how long ago it was written.

About Johannes Pachelbel

Wanty to learn more about this amazing composer? Here are a few links to biographies about his life and music.

Johannes Pachelbel Biography on Wikipedia.org

Pachelbel's Canon on Wikipedia.org

Pachelbel Canon in D by Apollo Symphony Orchestra

Canon Rock by Funtwo | Rock Guitar Performing Canon in D

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