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.
So what is a canon?…
For me canons, passacaglias and chaconnes are extremely effective musical forms where the repeated harmonies create a tautness and sense of inevitability that can be inspiring. Some of my favourite music in this form is: 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:
…and why is Pachelbel’s so popular?
… its major key and has a calm confidence that has probably helped to make it so well liked…