Pachelbel Vespers


The music contained in this CD represents a selection of Vespers movements written by the organist Johann Pachelbel. They have in common the distinctively sonorous scoring of four or five-part choir, accompanied by a six-part string orchestra to which is added, at the composer’s express request, a bassoon.

‘Charivari Agréable is one of the most versatile Early Music groups around at the moment; under its benign director, Kah-Ming Ng, it appears to be infinitely adaptable, finding musicians who can fit into any of its many and varied programmes’ International Record Review. They represent ‘a new and very exciting phase of the early music revival, one that enriches the existing repertory and can bring us ever closer to the spirit of the original music’ Gramophone.

Described by The Times as a group that has “stayed in character over four decades, yet retuned itself to the times” and by Gramophone as “enchanting the ear from first to last note” The King’s Singers are truly remarkable. They continue to be one of the most sought-after and critically acclaimed vocal ensembles in the world, performing a rich and varied repertoire from Gesualdo to György Ligeti and Michael Bublé. Internationally recognised for their work in the classical field, they retain the sparkle that delights so many fans when they perform much loved numbers from the lighter end of the repertoire. Whatever the music The King’s Singers are instantly recognisable for their spot-on intonation, their impeccable vocal blend, the flawless articulation of the text and incisive timing.


What people are saying

“… joined together [The King’s Singers] bond into a bright rainbow of colours – just right for the music’s sunny demeanour.”

The Sunday Times


“For those who know Pachelbel only through the Canon, this disc will be revelatory … Each piece is beautifully served by the ensemble.”

The Sunday Times


Classic FM Magazine Disc of the Month, May 2010


Classical Music Magazine Recording of the Fortnight, April 2010

Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706)
Johann Krieger (1652–1735)
Johann Caspar Kerll (1627–1693)

The King’s Singers
Charivari Agréable

Release date:1st Mar 2010
Order code:SIGCD198
Barcode: 635212019825

The Sunday Times, March 2010

There’s much more to Bach’s predecessor Pachelbel than his famous Canon. In every genre the 17th-century German knew how to charm, softening German rigour with Italianate vocal flourishes, as heard in this collection of long-forgotten Protestant church music. In solos, some of the King’s Singers’ voices lack sufficient heft; but joined together they bond into a bright rainbow of colours – just right for the music’s sunny demeanour. Bouncy instrumental support from Kah-Ming Ng’s Charivari Agréable.

Geoff Brown

The Sunday Times, March 2010

For those who know Pachelbel only through the Canon, this disc will be revelatory. The music, unearthed and edited by Kah-Ming Ng, comes from a manuscript now in the Bodleian Library. It’s not a complete Vespers setting, but includes five settings of the Ingressus and two Magnificats, all composed for a rich-textured ensemble of voices, strings and continuo. The influence of Monteverdi is evident in the music’s contrasts of scoring and of mood, and in the sheer delight Pachelbel takes in writing virtuoso passage work. But there’s also some counterpoint that looks forward to Bach. Each piece is beautifully served by the ensemble.

Stephen Pettit

Recording of the Fortnight
Classical Music Magazine, 10 April 2010

Pachelbel is no longer a one-hit wonder. The Vesperes fragments from late 17th-century Nuremberg – which will also be performed at Cadogan Hall on 29 April – show a craftsman who approaches greatness in passages such as the sensuous Quoniam from the E flat major Magnificat. Consistently engaging is the vigorous pacing in the choral works and sonatas by Kerll and Krieger, the singers’ luscious yet clean-cut sound justifying the transposition of the Vespers fragments.

Phillip Sommerich

BBC Music Magazine, May 2010
Performance *****, Recording ****

The marriage of the King’s Singers and Charivari Agréable has created the ‘dream-team’ for this enchanting addition to the late middle-Baroque repertoire. There are five ‘Ingressi’, the opening sentences of Vespers together with the Gloria, and two Magnificat settings. Sandwiched between are two richly textured five-part instrumental sonatas by Johann Caspar Kerll.

The ensemble is unbeatable. The six King’s Singers blend superbly, yet each becomes distinctive and expressive in their prominent moments, for instance the fugue setting of ‘Sicut erat’ ending the third Ingressus with each entry pointed clearly before the voice recedes into the ensemble. Charivari Agréable in turn play as if singing, breathing between phrases and virtually texted in musical dialogue such as the final ‘Sicut erat’ of the third Ingressus. High points include the Gloria of the first Magnificat, slow and contemplative, as if awestruck, with suspended dissonance piled on dissonance. The minor mode generates striking harmonies too in the fourth Ingressus, exposing an ingenious choice of bassoon instead of cello or gamba in the bass.

The sound is excellent bar one small niggle: the buzz of harmonics from fairly close-recorded voices singing loudly can momentarily cloud the ensemble. For the rest, clarity is exemplary. Not to be missed.

George Pratt

Early music roundup, Choir & Organ Magazine, July/August 2010

A recording of Pachelbel’s music for Vespers is vastly welcome, Amiable but with depth, Pachelbel’s elegant lines offer the King’s Singers a chance to bloom as individuals and their tendency to under-voice is barely apparent. Effervescent, energetic, singing and affable, gracious playing by Charivari Agréable gild this truly glorious music which has lain dormant for far too long…

Rebecca Taverner

Richard Lawrence, The Gramophone, July 2010

Beyond the Canon: rediscovering the choral music of Pachelbel

This is quite an ear- opener. Pachelbel is well known for his keyboard music and for the famous Canon in D but his reputation as a composer of church music seems to have died with him. On the strength of this recording such a fate is undeserved, even though Kah-Ming Ng is pitching it a bit strong in hoping that the Vespers "may now be restored to the canon of choral masterpieces".

The title is a misnomer. This is not the Vespers from soup to nuts but a selection of five settings of the "Ingressus" – the opening versicle and response "Deus in adjutorium meum" plus the Gloria – and two of the Magnificat. They were composed for the church of St Sebald in Nuremberg, where Pachelbel was organist from 1695 until his death 11 years later. They are attractive pieces, full of euphonious writing in thirds: a result, presumably, ofPachelbel’s exposure to Italianate music during his time as deputy organist of St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.

The King’s Singers are hardly to be equated with Pachelbel’s choir of men and boys, and even with downward transposition the upper voices sound rather strained. If not all the members of the group perform well as soloists, in the tuttis their brisk cheerfulness is infectious; and there’s nothing wrong with the solo work in the most memorable section, the slow, thoughtful Gloria of the Magnificat in E flat. The strings of Charivari Agréable complement the singers admirably and offer more delight in sonatas by Krieger and Kerll.

Richard Lawrence

Classical Music Magazine, June 2010

A fascinating disc of Vespers movements by a Thuringian organist of canonic status: Johann Pachelbel. Composed while Pachelbel was organist at Nuremberg’s Sebalduskirche, these works conform to the liturgical practices of the South German early reformation. Elements of the choral writing sound not unlike that of Pachelbel’s predecessor Schiitz – though director Ng’s informative and well-researched liner notes point out that Pachelbel would have absorbed the concerted Italianate style while an apprentice in Vienna. Charivari Agréable is on excellent form, here, with sensitive leadership from Bojan Cicic and supportive continuo playing. The King’s Singers are equally stylish, though miked far too close for comfort.

Catherine Groom

Musicweb-International, August 2010

Some composers are mainly known by just one piece. Luigi Boccherini, the composer of the minuet, is one example. Johann Pachelbel is also mostly known because of a single piece, the Canon. Organists know his organ works well, and these are frequently played in organ recitals as well as in the liturgy. He was a versatile composer and also wrote a number of instrumental pieces and vocal works, both sacred and secular.

Johann Pachelbel worked in various places, but the last and most important position he held was that of organist at the St Sebaldus in Nuremberg. There he was also expected to compose vocal music for the liturgy, and to that category belongs the music on this disc. The title is not quite correct, though. It suggests that we get a Vesper liturgy, but that is not the case. In fact, only two elements of the Vespers are performed, as the track-list shows. The Ingressus is the Lutheran terminology for the versicle ‘Deus in adiutorium meum intende’ and the response ‘Domine ad adiuvandum me festina’. This disc contains five settings of these two chants, for four to five voices, with a six-part string ensemble and, as Pachelbel specifically requires, a bassoon. In addition there are two settings of the Magnificat.

The music on this disc has been preserved in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. The manuscripts reached Britain thanks to Pachelbel’s son Carl Theodorus, who in the early 1730s emigrated to America. On his way he passed through London, where he left the manuscripts. They are first mentioned in a sale catalogue for an auction in 1779.

All the pieces consist of sequences of soli and tutti. Elements in the text are emphasized in that they are set for the full ensemble. The pieces also contain many passages with extended melisma, for instance on the word ‘gloria’. In most settings of the Ingressus much weight is given to the closing section, ‘Sicut erat in principio’, for instance by setting it in the form of a fugue, as in the Ingressus in e minor. All the pieces – with the exception of the last two – begin with an instrumental Sinfonia.

As one can see from the track-list all compositions are transposed down. No reason is given in the programme notes, but I assume in the original key the upper part is just too high for the male altos of The King’s Singers. I regret this decision: the choice of performers should be adapted to the requirements of the repertoire, not the other way around. The King’s Singers are an excellent vocal group, but more experienced in music of the renaissance and contemporary repertoire than baroque music, and especially German music. And that shows, because as well as they sing, the performance of Pachelbel’s Vesper music doesn’t sound quite right.

The singers – and in particular the altos and the tenor – produce a sound which seems to me typically British, and would never be taken for German. An ensemble like Cantus Cölln would sing this music very differently, and for sure stylistically more convincingly. The "open" sound of the King’s Singers doesn’t really suit, and there is also too much legato singing and too little dynamic shading. The singers have quite individual voices, which fail to blend all that well in the tuttis. I also regret the Italian pronunciation of the Latin texts.

Charivari Agréable shows a little more awareness of the requirements of German music. The inclusion of the sonatas by Johann Krieger and Johann Caspar Kerll is not explained by Kah-Ming Ng in the booklet, but stylistically they fit well into the programme.

This disc is important in that it considerably adds to our knowledge of Pachelbel as a composer of vocal music. The pieces are recorded for the first time, and as the repertoire is of fine quality this disc deserves praise. But I hope that at some time in the future this music will be recorded in a stylistically more appropriate manner.

Johan van Veen, September 4th 2010

It’s a good thing to start giving Pachelbel his choral due—long overdue.

Johann Pachelbel has been unfairly stained by the success of his ubiquitous "Canon à 3", to so-called “Yuppie National Anthem” that has so plagued many department stores, elevators, commercials, you name it. Alright, the piece is a fine one, and I like it, but there is so much more to this composer, a good friend of the Bach family, one of the foremost virtuosos of his age, and a quite extraordinary composer, as the selections from the Vespers service on this disc will show.

Pachelbel was an "early" Protestant composer, at a time when the services were still in Latin, and as such his style is somewhat different than that which appeared in the Lutheran church years later. His is a music that is redolent of the very early Baroque, and is littered with the clichés and contrivances (all in a good way) of that era. The vocal music is tightly-woven with the fabric of the instrumental accompaniment, and the results are simply sterling.

It is good to hear the King’s Singers again in repertory that they started out with before crossing over so successfully, and they are marvelous here, with spectacular playing by a period group unknown to me, Charivari Agréable, a spot-on Baroque band of impeccable musicianship. Add to the mix two sprightly sonatas by Krieger and Keril (both contemporaries of Pachebel) and Signum’s airy sound, and you have a winner all around.

Steven Ritter

Barnes & Noble, 1st October 2010

While Johann Pachelbel is rightly famous for his ubiquitous "Canon in D," he’s posthumously struggled to gain recognition for his other works. In fact, I’ve seen at least two CD compilations of "Pachelbel’s Greatest Hit" (emphasis on the singular) featuring various arrangements of – you guessed it – "Canon in D." Amazingly, none of Pachelbel’s other compositions are canons, so the popularity of "Canon" paints an incomplete and misleading picture of this under-appreciated Baroque composer. Fortunately, "Pachelbel Vespers" seems set to change that. On this recording, The King’s Singers collaborate with instrumental ensemble Charivari Agreable to revive these works "after three centuries of quiescence," as the liner notes go. The compositions, which feature settings in different keys of two sacred texts (the Ingressus and the Magnificat), demonstrate Pachelbel’s skill in joining vocal music with orchestral forces in the style pioneered by earlier composers such as Monteverdi’s operas and (perhaps more closely) Carissimi’s oratorio, which unify prayer with entertainment much as Pachelbel does here. The instrumental sections are vibrant and lively, while the declamatory vocal passages convey the appropriate mood of plaintive urgency (in the Ingressus) or celebration (in the Magnificat) as befitting the text. (The emotional resonance of these works may have sprung from personal tragedy: Pachelbel had lost his first wife and son to the plague, and his second marriage produced a stillborn child.) The King’s Singers imbue the declamatory vocal passages with passion and a sense of purpose, while Charivari Agreable perform the instrumentation with vivacity and authority. Instrumental works by Pachelbel’s contemporaries Krieger and Kerll, featured as interludes, give the musicians further opportunity to shine. "Vespers" should help elevate Pachelbel above his undeserved "one-hit wonder" status, while heightening anticipation for further collaborations by these two remarkable ensembles.

Eddie Konczal, March 2011

We enjoyed Charivari Agréable in their early days when, e.g., they consisted of Susanne Heinrich – Viols, Kah-Ming Ng – Keyboards & Lynda Sayce – Lute in The Queen’s Goodnight .

In my much younger days, Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706) was a one-piece composer, known only by his Canon, forgotten for centuries, rediscovered and first published in 1919, later becoming extremely popular, and today frequently played at weddings.

This Vespers collection of Ingressi and Magnificats (to the same words in different keys) looks daunting on the page, and is not greatly helped by Ng’s 7- page liner note, which reads as a scholarly musicological/historical dissertation (despite his acknowledgement to "Dr Glyn Redworth for daubing patches of purple in otherwise pale prose")…

No matter, this is absorbing late-17th C music, powerfully projected by The King’s Singers with an Agréable group, which includes a bassoon, "at the composer’s express request".

I would agree with the claim that this recording "serves to restore Pachelbel’s Vespers to the canon of choral masterpieces". There are also two nice instrumental Sonatas by Krieger and Kerll, about the latter of whom Ng has nothing to tell us.

Don’t pass it by.

Peter Grahame Woolf

  1. Ingressus in C minor [originally in D minor] P92 – Sonata – Johann Pachelbel –
  2. – Deus in adiutorium – Johann Pachelbel –
  3. – Gloria patri – Johann Pachelbel –
  4. – Sicut erat – Johann Pachelbel –
  5. Magnificat in C major [orig. E-flat major] P250 – Sonata – Johann Pachelbel –
  6. – Magnifica – Johann Pachelbel –
  7. – Et exultavit – Johann Pachelbel –
  8. – Quia respexit – Johann Pachelbel –
  9. – Et misericordia – Johann Pachelbel –
  10. – Fecit potentiam – Johann Pachelbel –
  11. – Suscepit Israel – Johann Pachelbel –
  12. – Gloria – Johann Pachelbel –
  13. – Sicut erat – Johann Pachelbel –
  14. Sonata ? 5 in A minor – Allegro – Johann Krieger –
  15. – Adagio – Johann Krieger –
  16. – Allegro – Johann Krieger –
  17. – Presto – Johann Krieger –
  18. – Adagio – Johann Krieger –
  19. Ingressus in E minor [G minor] P96 – Sonata – Pachelbel –
  20. – Deus in adiutorium – Pachelbel –
  21. – Domine ad adiuvandum – Pachelbel –
  22. – Gloria – Pachelbel –
  23. – Gloria Patri, Sicut erat – Pachelbel –
  24. Ingressus in G major [A major] P97 – Sonata – Pachelbel –
  25. – Gloria Patri – Pachelbel –
  26. – Sicut erat – Pachelbel –
  27. Ingressus in G minor [A minor] P98 – Sonata – Pachelbel –
  28. – Deus in adiutorium – Pachelbel –
  29. – Gloria – Pachelbel –
  30. – Sicut erat – Pachelbel –
  31. – Et in secula seculorum – Pachelbel –
  32. Sonata ? 5 in G minor – Allegro – Johann Caspar Kerll –
  33. – [Vivace] – Johann Caspar Kerll –
  34. – [Andante] – Johann Caspar Kerll –
  35. – Allegro – Johann Caspar Kerll –
  36. Magnificat in F major [G major] P253 – Magnificat – Pachelbel –
  37. – Deposuit – Pachelbel –
  38. – Sicut locutus est – Pachelbel –
  39. – Sicut erat, Amen – Pachelbel –
  40. Ingressus in B-flat major [C major] P88 – Deus in adjutorium – Pachelbel –
  41. – Sicut erat – Pachelbel –
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