What’s Wrong with Pachelbel Canon?

Pachelbel Canon must be the easiest orchestral piece in the world for cellists to memorise – with its 28 repetitions of the 8 note bass line. Despite the numerous cellist jokes about this work (see below) I have always enjoyed playing it. It’s fairly short, the harmonies are beautiful and if you respond to what the other players are doing it becomes more fun.

For me canons, passacaglias and chaconnes are amazing musical forms where the repeated harmonies create a tautness and sense of inevitability that can be inspiring. A few that come to mind are Purcell’s Chaconne in G minor, Vitali’s Chaconne,  Britten’s Passacaglia from Peter Grimes and Bach’s Chaconne in D minor, played superbly  below by Heifetz:

Pachelbel’s Canon however, is in a major key and has a calm confidence that has probably helped to make it so popular……..

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