We are five weeks from the start of the official holiday season in U.S. Interestingly, Pachelbel’s Canon in D comes to mind because I usually hear it played around the holidays. So who is Pachelbel and why is this piece heard at Christmas? My old pal Wiki states the following:
“Pachelbel’s Canon is the name commonly given to a canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel in his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo (German: Kanon und Gigue für 3 Violinen mit Generalbaß) (PWC 37, T. 337, PC 358), sometimes referred to as Canon and Gigue in D or simply Canon in D. Neither the date nor the circumstances of its composition are known (suggested dates range from 1680 to 1706), and the oldest surviving manuscript copy of the piece dates from the 19th century.
Pachelbel’s Canon, like Pachelbel’s other works, although popular during his lifetime, soon went out of style, and remained in obscurity for centuries thereafter. A 1968 arrangement and recording of it by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra became unexpectedly popular over the next decade, and in the 1970s the piece began to be recorded by many ensembles; by the early 1980s its presence as background music was deemed inescapable. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, elements of the piece, especially its chord progression, were used in a variety of pop music songs. Since the 1980s, it has also been used frequently in weddings and funeral ceremonies in the Western world.”
To paraphrase, Pachelbel was known as a composer and organist during his lifetime but today is known for his church and chamber music. In 1968, the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra made a recording of the piece. A classical San Francisco radio played it in 1970 which garnered many requests. In 1974, London Records, aware of the interest in the piece, reissued a 1961 album of the Corelli Christmas Concerto performed by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, which happened to contain the piece, now re-titled to Pachelbel Kanon: the Record That Made it Famous and other Baroque Favorites. The album was the highest-selling classical album of 1976.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Enjoy.