St Sebaldus Church, Nuremberg, Pachelbel's last and longest position.

BMC 30


Music for Organ, Harpsichord, & Chamber Ensemble

Helmut Winter,
historic organ at Trebel by Johann Georg Stein 1777

Marga Scheurich, harpsichord
The Paillard Chamber Orchestra,
Conductor Jean-François Paillard


1.  Organ: Toccata in D Major

2.  Partie in G Major for Strings & Continuo

Hexachordum Apollinis:
Six sets of Air & Variations ("Partitas") - Harpsichord
3.  Partita 1
4.  Partita 2
5.  Partita 3
6.  Partita 4
7.  Partita 5
8.  Partita 6

9.  Toccata in c minor, Silberman Organ, Reinhardtsgrimma

10.  Suite VI

11.  Organ: Ciacona in f minor

Total time 72:57

It is perhaps inevitable that many people should have come to Johann Pachelbel by way of the ubiquitous "Canon". Like the Albinoni Adagio which is not by Albinoni at all, the Pachelbel Canon is not a Canon, but a set of variations on a repeating bass line, a form highly popular among baroque composers and known variously as Chaconne or Passacaglia. Whatever it may be called, the celebrated "Canon" does provide a good introduction to Pachelbel who clearly had a preference for the Chaconne or Passacaglia, as can be heard in our recording.

We begin and end our disc with an organ work. Pachelbel was in fact a working organist all his life. The Toccata in D provides a good opening, and we close with the monumental Ciacona (Chaconne) in f-minor, played on an organ highly suited to the music of Pachelbel. It is located in the small north-German village church at Trebel, and was completed in 1777 by Georg Stein the Elder who had been born in Thuringia and learned his craft at Erfurt where Pachelbel had been organist for twelve years. The organ is a two-manual instrument, with 9 stops on the Hauptwerk, 6 stops on the Hinterwerk and 4 for the pedal. Dr Winter uses the variations in the Ciacona to demonstrate every sound and combination in a thorough "guided tour" of this beautiful little village organ.

At 42 minutes and forming the major part of our record, Pachelbel's crowning achievement as a composer of variations is his Hexachordum Apollinis (1699), a group of six arias with variations which, according to the title page, may be performed on the organ or the harpsichord, both of which are depicted. The title refers to the six strings of the God Apollo's lyre. The composer was clearly proud of this work, for he dedicated it to Buxtehude.

The first five sets of variations in Hexachordum Apollinis are arranged so that their modes or keys encompass a perfect 5th. The one at the center of the scheme, in F, is flanked on either side by Dorian and a minor-key work, so the series is as follows: D Dorian, E minor, F major, G Dorian, A minor. Each aria is followed by six variations, except the second, which has five.

According to the old hexachordal concept one expects Aria sexta to be in B-flat. This work, however, is apparently something distinctive. It has a special subtitle, 'Aria Sebaldina' (obviously referring to St Sebaldus Church, Nuremberg, Pachelbel's last and longest position - pictured above), and has eight variations. It is in 3/4 time instead of common time.

Ms Scheurich plays these variations on a Neupert harpsichord, recorded with a close, clear, strong sound.
Illustrated article: The Baroque German Harpsichord

Of Pachelbel's surviving works for Chamber Ensemble, the most important are the Six Suites for Two Violins and Continuo constituting his Musicalische Ergötzung ("Musical Celebration") published at some unspecified date after he had moved to Nuremberg in 1695. We offer here a sampling of his chamber music.


Baroque Music Library