In 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach was working for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, the German prince of the House of Ascania. Bach was the prince’s music director. Bach composed his Orchestral Suite No. 3 in honor of Leopold, around 1731. The second movement, entitled, “Air,” was further popularized in 1884 when violinist August Wilhelmj arranged it for piano and violin.
Wilhelmj, considered the “last great violinist in the German style,” transposed the piece so that the entire violin melody line could be played using just one of the violin’s four strings, the G string. It became known as the “Air on the G String” and is today one of the world’s most recognizable classical melodies.
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Composed by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher
In 1967, the English rock band Procol Harum released their most famous single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The song went on to become an international hit. If you listen closely, you can hear the band borrow Bach’s accompaniment from “Air” for use in their rock song.