Pachelbel and Bach

  • sample 1

    Sinfonia & Versus 1 from Johann Pachelbel’s Cantata ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’

  • sample 2

    Versus 2, soprano–alto aria, from J.S. Bach’s Cantata ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’, BWV 4

    playing time

    58:02 + 51:40

£7.50 Buy recording

This is a double CD. Each disc presents cantatas set by both Pachelbel and Bach: ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ and ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’. In the first case the older composer’s influence on Bach’s writing is very clear; in the second, we hear the mature Bach. Also on the discs: Pachelbel’s beautiful Canon and two of his sacred concertos; J.S. Bach’s stirring cantata for solo alto voice ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’, and an arrangement of the lesser known canons from the Goldberg Variations.

The music


Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706):
Cantata ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’
Canon in D major
Sacred concerto ‘Mein Fleisch’

J.S. Bach (1685–1750):
Cantata ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’, BWV 54
Cantata ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’, BWV 4


Johann Pachelbel:
Cantata ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’
Partie à 5 in G major
Sacred concerto ‘Christ ist erstanden’

J.S. Bach:
Canons from the Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087
Cantata ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’, BWV 99

The musicians

The Bach Players:
Rachel Elliott soprano
Sally Bruce-Payne alto
Samuel Boden tenor [CD1]
James Gilchrist tenor [CD2]
Matthew Brook bass
Marion Moonen flute
James Eastaway oboe
Nicolette Moonen violin & director
Stephen Pedder violin
Rachel Isserlis violin / viola
Karin Bjork viola
Rachel Stott viola
Alison MacGillivray cello [CD1]
Piroska Baranyay cello [CD2]
Alastair Mitchell bassoon
Valerie Botwright double bass
Silas Wollston organ / harpsichord

Recording & production

Producer: Roy Mowatt
Recording engineer: Alan Mosley
Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 8 to 10 November 2010

Producer / recording engineer: Simon Fox-Gál
Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 21 to 24 November 2011


A 24-page accompanying booklet includes an essay on the music by the composer Hugh Wood, texts of the words sung and with English translations, and a note on his arrangement of the canons from the Goldberg Variations by Silas Wollston. The booklet and CD packet are illustrated by portraits of the two composers, and photographs of the musicians in concert and at the recording sessions.


Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D – at some stage violated into a super-sweet pop song by a singer whose name I hope to forget – is here embedded in a meaningful context. Pachelbel (1653–1706) was a friend of Bach’s family and profoundly influenced his music. Exactly how becomes clear through the well-thought-through selection that The Bach Players, the British ensemble of violinist Nicolette Moonen, have made from the work of both composers. ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ and ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’, both well-known Bach cantatas, are put up against the same titles by Pachelbel. His Canon is placed against an arrangement of canons from the Goldberg Variations; also by Pachelbel are two sacred concertos, ‘Mein Fleisch’ and ‘Christ ist erstanden’, and by Bach the cantata ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’. The selection and the ordering are very educational. You hear how much the young Bach was influenced by his older colleague. But ‘educational’ is not the only keyword, because these musicians are driven and inspired. The singing is expressive and the playing no less so. The combination of Sally Bruce-Payne’s alto voice with the rasping string sounds in ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’ is irresistible.
Gerard Scheltens, Luister, August 2012
(awarded maximum 10 stars: 5 for performance, 5 for recording)

The Bach Players can notch up yet another resounding success in their ever inventive explorations of Johann Sebastian by juxtaposing works by other composers. Pachelbel’s ubiquitous Canon does rear its head (although shorn of its delightful companion Gigue), but here it forms part of a broader view of the composer. There is little to dislike here, and much to enjoy: the team of singers demonstrates technical brilliance and expressive force, while the instrumentalists are equally excellent, particularly in Pachelbel’s G major Partie. Invidious as it would be to single out one part of this outstanding team effort, James Gilchrist’s duet with flautist Marion Moonen in ‘Erschüttre dich’ from Bach’s ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ is masterful and utterly enthralling.
Adrian Horsewood, Early Music Today, June–August 2012

Perhaps what I am enjoying even more than anything else, though, is mezzo Sally Bruce-Payne’s beautiful performance of ’Widerstehe doch der Sünde’. Hers is a wonderful Bach voice, admirably controlled, warmly coloured and fervently expressive.
Nicholas Anderson, International Record Review, June 2012

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