Sheet music

Musical contribution - November 2014

Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Johann Pachelbel was born in Nuremberg. He studied at the universities of Altdorf and Regensburg. He moved to Vienna in 1671, where he studied and served as a replacement organist at the Viennese Court Chapel and the famous Stephansdom. He became organist in Eisenach in 1677, the town where Johann Sebastian Bach would be born 8 years later. At a later stage Pachelbel took on an organist role in Erfurt and at the court of Stuttgart. He returned to his hometown in 1695 and stayed here, as organist of the St. Sebalduskerk, until his death.

Johann Pachelbel’s compositions formed the link between South Germany’s Italianate organ art and the North German School which dates back to J.P. Sweelinck. His organ music was mainly created from his ecclesiastical duties:

  • Introducing the melodies of the songs to the congregation through organ music (choral preludes).

  • Versetten (in the form of fugues and other forms) as interludes with the evening song.

His choral arrangements had a major influence on J.S. Bach.

This month (in preparation for the month of December) I would like to present you with a melody by M. Luther. Luther wrote this as “Ein Kinderlied auf die Weihnacht”.

Pachelbel managed to combine the lyrical and virtuosic elements here with the cantus firmus (Pedal). I have used the trumpet 8 in order to do complete justice to this melody. A 16’ reed seemed a little too bombastic.

Both of the improvising voices have been given a filling voice: as thin as possible a mixture against an embellished sesquialtera. This ensures the three invoices can be followed individually, whilst still representing a unit.

Add a Werckmeister into the equation and you have the German Baroque sound which – in my modest opinion – is surely what Pachelbel had intended.

With Kind Regards,

André van Vliet