Friday, January 19, 2024

Peter Schickele ("PDQ Bach"), 1935-2024

Peter Schickele, who died Tuesday at 88, was a serious composer of "more than 100 symphonic, choral, solo instrumental and chamber works" who also did arrangements of folk music for Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie; however, somewhat to his regret, he was best known for a fictional character he invented, P,D.Q. Bach, the least known of Johann Sebastian Bach's myriad children. Schickele claimed to have discovered P.D.Q. and his works while serving as professor of music at the University of Southern North Dakota's branch campus at Hoople.

The clip above shows Schickele introducing P.D.Q. Bach's "Classical Rap," followed by audio of the piece. Schickele explains that P.D.Q. wrote it about a neighborhood in early 19th century Vienna, but that he modified it to describe life on Manhattan's Upper West Side. 

Martha and I were fortunate to attend several P.D.Q. Bach concerts some years ago. Most began when Schickele "slid down a rope suspended from the first balcony." If I recall correctly, the opening number for one was another favorite of New Yorkers, the Concerto for Horn and Hardart. For non-New Yorkers, Horn and Hardart was the company that owned the famous "Automat" restaurants.