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Johann Pachelbel: One-hit wonder

(or "J.S. Bach: Ultra-marathoner")

We normally associate Classical music composers as having a few famous works, but unfortunately Johann Pachelbel, known primarily for his Canon in D, has more in common with Bobby McFerrin, Baha Men and Lou Bega.

Apart from "Don't Worry, Be Happy", can you name another hit by Bobby McFerrin? Or do the Baha Men and Lou Bega have anything beyond "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and "Mambo no. 5"?

Johann Pachelbel is their classical buddy, a composer iconised by that sole work. Never mind that Pachelbel was an esteemed organist in the court of Stuttgart, the town of Gotha, and St Sebald's Church in Nuremberg. Never mind that he wrote various forms of keyboard music in his lifetime, including toccatas, chaconnes, variations and organ chorales. Just whisper the name "Pachelbel", and all sense of the man dissolves to a dreamy association with wedding music; visions of the tune echoing down church halls as the bride enters come to mind.

Did you know that Pachelbel was godfather to one of Bach's sisters? He had a musical link to the Bach family, in that he taught Bach's older brother Johann Christoph, who taught his younger brother in turn.

But Pachelbel was not the only musical influence on Bach; the Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude, who was an accomplished organist and descended from an organist himself, proved to have a lasting influence on Bach too. Such was the esteem in which Bach held Buxtehude, he once walked from Arnstadt to Lubeck, a distance of over 250 miles, just to hear him play.

Then he walked back.

It is uncertain if Bach would have walked 500 miles (hit by The Pretenders here) just to see Pachelbel play. But there is no denying that outside of his Canon, Pachelbel's relatively unknown keyboard contribution to the music of German Protestant church was so profound that it heavily influenced Bach. Pity the popularity of his Canon took away from the recognition of his other works.

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