Sunday, October 25, 2020

Pachelbel's greatest hit

According to this (can everybody read this, or do you have to be a member?), the first recording of Pachelbel's Canon was by Arthur Fiedler in 1940. This is not the Pachelbel you probably expect; it's fast and astringent and sounds like the contrapuntal exercise that it really is.

Here's a recent historically-informed arrangement of a similar interpretation.

So from whence came the sad and weepy reading we're more used to hearing? From Jean-Fran├žois Paillard, who slowed down the tempo and added those arpeggiated pizzicatos that really makes it what it's become.


  1. How much was the speed of the Fiedler version influenced by the need to distribute it on a 78rpm disk (max side duration about 3 1/2 minutes, according to Wikipedia), and how much by the composer's intention?

    1. Other historically-informed performances are also fast, and if Fiedler's performance had been on a 12-inch disk it could have been 4 1/2 minutes. He used a 10-inch disk because he didn't need a bigger one.