Himlische Cantorey: Johann Pachelbel, Magnificat

review pachelbel x1 cong p35

Pachelbel was a German composer, organist, and teacher who “brought the south German organ schools to their peak”, says Wikipedia: he composed a large body of sacred and secular music, but today he is mostly famous for one piece of music: Canon in D Major.

You’ve all heard it, and Pete Waterman called it “almost the godfather of pop music,” claiming Kylie Minogue’s I Should Be So Lucky was inspired by it. Green Day’s Basket Case is also apparently similarly inspired, as is Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis, Noel Gallagher famously also being compared to Bach. Pachelbel’s music was apparently popular during his lifetime, so he’d not be surprised.

Like all good songwriters, Pachelbel wrote Canon in D to be simple (itself not easy) and like all good pop classics, it’s easy to get. Once you’ve got it, it doesn’t change but just repeats and gets more complex.

The elegance and charm of Canon is also to be heard in his Magnificats, which manage to be immediately accessible and simple, while retaining a suitable reverential air (though the first is so simple, at first play the singing of Magnifi-cat gave us the earworm of that other great song with cat in the chorus, Phoebe’s classic Smelly Cat from Friends).

Pachelbel apparently recorded more settings for the Magnificat than any other German composer of the 17th century, so he knows what he’s about. This programme is four settings of the Magnificat but to be honest, unless Magnificats float your boat it’s just one programme of accessible reverential music. We think it sounds nice.

The release notes say: “We do not know what we should admire more about these works: the complexity of the contrapuntal and concerto textures or the naturalness and cantability of the part writing.”

Take your pick, nice church music or natural cantability.

The Himlische Cantorey, under Jan Kobow, do a fine job.
This is out now on Cpo: 777707-2.

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