Pachelbel Canon: should one stay close to the original?

Edited: February 4, 2018, 5:25 AM · I found a version of Pachelbel's Canon in D for two violins and proposed to my teacher to play this as a duet at the next student recital. It's an arrangement by Scott Staidle and it's mostly the original notes, including 3rd position and the 1/32 notes.

That is: mostly the original notes; the arranger has added lots of slurs and changed a few notes here and there. This annoyed my teacher quite a bit ("it's not supposed to be played like this"), so she had me undo all those changes.

So, my question to you: assuming that you like Pachelbel's Canon: how does it sound best to you? Original version for three violins and one cello, or different combinations of instruments? Slurred or not? What about the tempo? Professional performances on Youtube are at 26 to 57 bpm for quarter notes, which is quite a wide range. (I don't really have a choice here since I lack the skills for 57 bpm. :-) )

I'm aware that not everybody likes this piece – I've seen the rants – but I'm not one of them. It doesn't seem to be popular at student recitals over here. And surprise: my teacher found a cello volunteer!

Replies (8)

Edited: February 4, 2018, 6:40 AM · A cello volunteer? - probably never played it before!
Edited: February 4, 2018, 9:09 AM · Seriously, though, with a 300-year old popular piece such as the Canon I do wonder whether there is any point in trying to keep too close to an imagined Baroque interpretation, unless (a) you have an audience who specifically want such a performance, or (b) you want to learn in depth about playing in the Baroque style – in which case there are hundreds of other pieces of the period that haven't received the attention of modern editors.

Composers of Pachebel's era didn't require the detail you find in later composers (today it can be ridiculously excessive), contenting themselves with little more than f, p, allegro, andante, largo, presto and the like, and leaving the rest of the musical thought to the musicians. Anyway, the playing of old music naturally changes – evolves – with time because of cultural and societal changes, and developments in instruments and technology.

February 4, 2018, 9:27 AM · Trevor, thanks for the fine tutorial.

So nice that the OP's teacher found a cellist to help out!

But honestly, the cello part is just 2 measures of quarter notes repeated some number of times. The only problem the cellist has is getting lost in the sameness of it all and not stopping when it is over. Any one of the violinists, handed a cello after breakfast, should be able to play the cello part by lunch (by supper for sure)!

February 4, 2018, 10:07 AM · When she is not teaching, my teacher plays in a baroque ensemble (HIP style), so I can see where her view is coming from.

I think the volunteer is a cello teacher who is certainly familiar with the part (the recital includes cello students). Probably I won't see the cellist until recital day.

Andrew, I know that you taught yourself to play the cello in a couple of days, but I suspect that you might be more talented than the average violin student...

February 4, 2018, 10:53 AM · I think that there's so many arrangements that originality doesn't matter so much. You could play the original version, either with the correct people or just two violins, though this is your choice.
Edited: February 5, 2018, 7:51 AM · Pick just about any famous piece for the violin, lookup youtube performances by world famous players, and you will find a wide variety of tempos, bow work and even !gasp! changes to the music, sometimes significant.

At a professional level, there can be expectations for the "traditional" performance of classical pieces, especially well-known ones.

Of course, if you cannot give a recital without the teacher's approval of the version used, then there is not much more to discuss. But make sure you really understand the teacher's motivation.

If it is because they think the version you proposed is not a "good" version, say it sounds bad or does not represent the type of technical challenge you should be displaying in the recital, then fair enough.

But if they are objecting to changes because it is not Canonical +grin+, then chalk it up to things you do not like in a teacher and make sure you do not repeat that prejudice should you ever find yourself in the position of approving music for a student recital.

February 5, 2018, 11:59 AM · "if they are objecting to changes because it is not Canonical +grin+"

That's definitely the case here. I don't really care, so I won't argue about it. There are enough other topics worth debating over. (Although I try to limit that when the clock is ticking at €0.75 per minute) :-)

February 6, 2018, 3:50 PM · Why stay close to the original? These guys didn't.

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