Peter Schickele, the composer and music teacher whose alter ego was PDQ Bach, said to be the oddest of J S Bach’s 23-odd children, has died.
While this has absolutely nothing to do with Northwestern sports, listening to PDQ Bach was a large part of the group I hung around with during my years at Northwestern, and I thought more than one member of this list might remember Schickele.
For sure. I was a music major, and my friends and I started listening to him in high school, continuing into my undergrad years at NU. His Beethoven’s Fifth sketch is a classic.
He was a genius,
I actually got to interview him as “The Professor” down in Dallas - very funny interview, no national politics, just music stuff.
Everyone who was a big fan should have seen at lest one of his annual “Farewell” concerts at Lincoln Center - they were amazing. Each one had a different opening - in one he was late, delayed at a dinner somewhere.
The stage manager comes out and says that Professor Schickele is delayed at dinner on one of New York’s rooftop restaurants, and they were going to have to cancel the concert. After the audience roundly boo’ed that, Schickele yells “Wait a minute…” from the back of the hall, then comes running down the aisle chased by a gorilla. After running around the stage, the stage manager comes out, pulls a gun, and shoots the gorilla (more boo’s by the audience) and the concert began.
In another one, he slid down a rope from the ceiling, and I also remember a piano coming up through the floor at another concert. He always wore tails, and brown work boots.
He was always accompanied by the New York Pickup Ensemble and the O.K. Chorale. and claimed to have compromising pictures of his fellow participants.
I was also told by some of the students who played in the orchestra at a performance in Davenport, Iowa, that his music was some of the hardest they had ever performed, but it sure was funny.
RIP, Professor. (you can find many of his bits on YouTube)
Great stories, Roy. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to attend one of his concerts, but his PDQ Bach albums were hilarious and won 4 grammies. (He won a 5th for his own music, too.)
I thought his ‘Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments’ was one of the funniest pieces of music I ever heard, but I can readily imagine that it would have been difficult to play. And I agree with Shawn’s assessment of the Beethoven 5th ‘commentary’ piece. I still find it hard to listen to the first movement without thinking of that.
Great humor lives forever, so live on, Professor.
Peter Schickele passed peacefully at his home in Bearsville, NY on Tuesday, 2024-01-16. Following is the NY Times obituary of 2024-01-17. Bearsville is a small hamlet about 4 mi. west of Woodstock (the town, not the concert), NY
Explore this gift article from The New York Times. You can read it for free without a subscription.
Peter Schickele, Composer and Gleeful Sire of P.D.Q. Bach, Dies at 88
He wrote more than 100 symphonic, choral, solo instrumental and chamber works. But he was better known, and celebrated, as a musical parodist. Who can forget the “Concerto for Horn and Hardart”?
I can personally attest to the difficulty of his compositions having (attempted) to play several of his piano duets – between the key signatures, the somewhat exotic time signatures these pieces seemed more like DUELS rather than duets. His musical “humor” was on so many levels that there always seemed to be something new each time you listen to it.
Thanks, Bob, a very well written obituary. Some Times obits are written with an acid pen, but this one just reeks of appreciation of the wit and breadth of Prof. Schickele’s work.
Here’s a free link to the Washington Post’s obit on Schickele:
And here’s what the Times of London had to say:
the writer must have been at a couple of his “farewell” concerts.
The Times article is great! I know this is way off topic for a sports list, but I truly appreciate the indulgence. We pretty much ruined one of his earlier records by playing it every day during high school study hall in the band room.
One of the things that has been wonderful about running this list for so many years is the extent to which we can stray from the main subject and yet find interesting things to talk about with civility, humor and, more often than not, more than a moderate amount of expertise, that often turn out to have more than tangential applicability to NU.
Although I’ve only met a handful of the list members, I feel I know many of you better than I know most of my neighbors and professional colleagues.