In Memoriam: PDQ Bach

I realize the slice of people out there who are amused by send ups of classical music is a very thin one, but I am definitely a part of it. (Much to the chagrin of my family, from time to time.) And if you’re one of the few and the proud, then the announcement this morning of the passing of Peter Schickele made you more than a little sad. In the field of classical music parodies, Schickele reigned supreme. (Come to think of it, how many other people are even in that category.)

For decades, he told the world all about his close study of the works of PDQ Bach, “the last and by far the least” of Bach’s children. And in those decades, he brought to light many different orchestral and choral arrangements of PDQ, all of them heavily plagiarized from other composers of PDQ’s time. Naturally (spoilers!) all of them were compositions of Schickele, but it was always such a fun cover story. He managed to win 5 Grammy awards over the course of his career, including four straight Best Comedy Album awards in the early 90s.

My father first introduced me to the fine art of classical music parody with a cassette tape of The 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults back in the late 80s. (That was the first Schickele album to win a Grammy.) The 1712 Overture itself is eleven minutes of pure joy, as far as I’m concerned. To really appreciate it, it’s fun to see someone actually get into the spirit of things and perform it live. Like this orchestra:

Then again, if you’ve always felt what classical music needed more than anything was a live commentary, you’re in luck!

Then there’s this duet between Schickele and Itzhak Perlman and the Boston Pops:

If you want to spend even more time with PDQ, there’s a wealth of other material out there. He even wrote an entire opera! (And if you’re wondering, no. I haven’t listened to all of it.)

In any case, I just wanted to take a moment to honor the man and say how much I appreciated his music. He’ll be missed.

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