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Repertory Archive

Johann Pachelbel



Born in Nuremberg on September 1, 1653, Johann Pachelbel began his musical instruction under Schwemmer and later the Universities of Altdorf and Ratisbon. In 1671, Pachelbel moved to Vienna where he became a student and deputy organist to Kerll at the Imperial Chapel. He studied in Nuremberg, Altdorf and Regensburg before becoming the organist of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria in 1674. In 1677, he returned to Germany as the court organist at Eisenach. The following year he moved to Erfurt where he was the organist at the Predigerkiche, remaining there for twelve years. While in Erfurt, he taught Johann Christoph Bach, Sebastian Bach’s older brother. Pachelbel also served in the courts at Stuttgart (1690) and Gothe (1692), and returned to his hometown in 1695 as organist of St. Sebald’s. Pachelbel wrote both free works (toccatas, fantasies and fugues) and chorale settings. His development of the cantus firmus chorale is perhaps his greatest contribution. It consists of the chorale in long notes, one phrase at a time, each phrase preceded by fore-imitation in the accompanying voices. This compositional pattern influenced many other composers and eventually became a standard form. Pachelbel’s repertory is the stylistic ancestor of J. S. Bach’s, particularly his technique of chorale variation. Carl Philip Emanuel named Pachelbel as a composer whose works his father had admired. Pachelbel died in Nuremberg on March 3, 1706, aged 52.