Saturday, April 18, 2015

Peter Schickele — An Hysteric Return P. D. Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall


   Peter Schickele is American composer and educator, internationally famous under his comic pseudonym P. D. Q. Bach. He composed music as the fictional composer, created character and the story being a parody of classical music historic narratives. He was composing joking music in the name of P. D. Q. Bach and continued this project for over forty years since first presentation took place in New York Town Hall in 1965. Second stage production was live recording of concert performance in December 1966 at Carnegie Hall published as the first gig by Vanguard (VSD - 79223) and titled An Hysteric Return P. D. Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall.
   Production had the size of a full artistic event. Performing team was quite numerous as it is customary in orchestral and oratorio presentations. Professor Peter Schickele, who gave a lecture, was playing bicycle, windbreaker and tromboon – a combination of trombone and bassoon. The Royal P.D.Q. Bach Festival Orchestra was conducted by Jorge Mester. The Okay Chorale worked under direction of John Nelson. Singers were Lorna Haywood (soprano), Marlena Kleinman (alto), John Ferrante (tenor) and William Woolf (bass). Solo performers were also Maurice Eisenstadt (bagpipes) and Robert Lewis (balloons).

Peter Schickele — P. D. Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall (1966)

   As an illustration of the sense of humor it is worth to cite the program of the record. Side One of the album includes Oratorio — The Seasonings, S. 1½ tsp. by P. D. Q. Bach. Movements of this composition are: Chorus “Tarragon of virtue is full”,  Recitative “And there were in the same country”, Duet “Bide thy thyme” (for soprano, alto, slide whistle, windbreaker and tromboon), Fugue for Orchestra, Recitative “Then asked he”, Chorale “By the leeks of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept”, Aria “Open sesame seeds” (for bass with kazoos, windbreaker and slide windbreaker), Recitative “So saying”, Duet “Summer is a cumin seed” (for soprano, alto with slide whistles and shower hose), Chorus with soloists “To curry favor, favor curry”.
   Side Two includes “Unbegun” Symphony by Professor P. Schickele (3rd and 4th movements only) and Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons, S. 66 by P. D. Q. Bach in five parts: Allegro moulto, Romanze II (Adagio Sireno), Minaret and Trio, Romanze I (Chi Largo) and Presto Changio. References to American history and geography are clear. The whole project was designed as an amusement to music lovers and connoisseurs. The cover contains A Quick and Easy Guide to the “Unbegan Symphony” where composer shows sources of citations and references to historic works. And it should be admit that the number of quoted works is imposing. Although today it would be hard to find audience with adequate level of musical expertise, it is still interesting document of musical culture in the sixties. Three stars for some pleasing memories of the era which is so much past.

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