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PDQ Bach

Cantate reissues, Rifkin, Schiekele

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 68 - Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< (...) Actually, I am very fond of most of the recordings of Bach Cantatas done by the German Cantate label during the 1960's. This series, which
included some dozens of cantatas, conducted by variety of German conductors, was
loosely connected with the editorial work of the NBA. I have some of the original LP's and the liner notes in all of them were written by Alfred Dürr, which can be seen as a certificate for high quality. Many of the original Cantate LP's were issued in the USA during the early 1970's by various American labels, such as MHS, Oryx and Nonesuch. >
As for liner notes by Dürr, that same 'certificate for high quality' is shared with the first volumes of the Telefunken series!

My guess on this Ziegler LP is that it was as much a Helmut Winschermann performance as anything, but Ziegler's name made it to main billing in the credits as the choral director. It's Winschermann's orchestra at their usual high standards, and he's playing the first oboe himself.

Yep, I have some of those same MHS and Nonesuch albums reissued from Cantate. I think most of the Nonesuch issues I've seen have liner notes by Rifkin. Whenever I see that, I remind myself: this was the young Rifkin who was recording piano albums of Scott Joplin and writing musicological annotations for other people's albums. And, the same Rifkin who put together that album "The Baroque Beatles Book" where he arranged Beatles tunes into neo-Baroque suites/concerti (in 1960s/70s "Baroque" performance style, of course). Was that one his first recording project as conductor? I'm not sure....

Speaking of neo-Baroque from the 1960s, I also reacquainted myself with the 1966 oratorio "The Seasonings" by Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach). Yes, this was the same Peter Schickele who was an arranger/conductor for Buffy Sainte-Marie at that time.... Sure enough, in "The Seasonings" they sustain all the notes in the recitatives. As I recall (my college music dept did a production of this when I was a freshman, 21 years ago), all the continuo notes and chords are written out in full; this isn't a figured-bass situation, and besides, it's the 1960s.... At the place where the keyboard player is supposed to make a mistake on purpose, there are instructions to hit a wrong chord (of the player's choice) and to keep searching with another dozen or so different harmonies (also improvised) before finding the right one. That's the scope for improvisation. :)

My favorite joke in that piece is the recitative line: "And she answered him not, saying:" (followed by nothing but continuo chords).

And then in one of the other PDQ Bach choral pieces, where they have the string of one-liners from the "Laugh-In" TV program (both in the format of the joke delivery, and in actual lines).... The music is going along, and suddenly stops, and somebody speaks: "Sehr interessant, aber dumm!" That's straight from Arte Johnson where he's playing the German soldier: "Laugh-In" is going along with its usual zaniness, and then it cuts to Johnson in the trenches...he turns to the camera and says in a thick accent, "Verrrrry interesting...but stupid!" And then a similar shtick gets used in "Murder By Death" by Neil Simon: Peter Sellers' character is sifting the mystery's clues and says, "Very interesting theory, Mr. Charleston. However, leave out one important point. Is stupid. Is stupidest theory I ever heard."

OK, now we're being silly.

Jim Morrison wrote (April 7, 2003):
More comical asides:

Somebody refresh my memory, but what is that PDQ Bach piece in which a narrator presents a kind of laudation to Bach while also undercutting that with quotes from Bach's letters focusing on money and the excessive praise he had to give his superiors. There's a refrain running through it that goes something like "and this is what he said; Bach said..."

I should get a recording of that. Very funny.

I'm (sorry but I don't have any recordings of BWV 68, so I can't comment on it.)

Brian Ratekin wrote (April 7, 2003):
[To Jim Morrson] You're thinking of "Bach Portrait," from the 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults CD.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2003):
[To Jim Morrison] Jim, that one is "A Bach Portrait" -- a straightforward ripoff of
Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait." That one's on the "1712 Overture" album:

Nice tidbits from The Bach Reader etc., interspersed with: "And that is what he said. That is what Johann Sebastian Bach said." (And at one point, "That is what Jack Bach said.")

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2003):
And that PDQ Bach cantata I mentioned earlier--the one with the soldier's interjection, "Sehr interessant, aber dumm!"--is "Blaues Gras." Album info and an English libretto are at:

The "Laugh-In" movement is the duet "Sag' mir"...and as they sing this cantata in German, there are macaronic (and sophomoric) puns all the way along...the pun on Bach's own name (Creek), the oblique reference to an Irving Berlin song, the "zwei bitte" musical reference, usw.... Somehow, "Das ist ein grosses Zehn-Vier!" seems classier than its translation does.

Jim Morrison wrote (April 8, 2003):
[To Brian Ratekin] That's the one, thanks. I use to have a tape of this recording, but lost it along the way. Also, since I've never heard "A Lincoln Portrait" I guess some of the humor flew past me.

Man, I don't have a recording of BWV 72 either. Oh well. Better luck next week.


Timpani and sackbuts

Matthew Nerugebauer wrote (May 20, 2003):
<< (...) Herreweghe (...) uses timpani instead sackbuts (...) >>
< Bradley Lehman wrote: That would be quite a trick, like using a tromba marina to play tromba parts.>
unless the trombone (sackbut) parts had only 2 notes and octave transpositions were acceptable!

< I like the harmonica recitatives in PDQ Bach's "Bluegrass Cantata". >
that guy has such a sense of humour, but the uni-pitch sections (staying on the same pitch for an extended period of time) make the thing sound more like chant than recits. But harmonica is an acceptable replacement for organ, if of course one is in Kentucky!



P.D.Q. Bach Bio

Francine Renee Hall wrote (May 20, 2003):
Have fun!

Francine (can't help lol and smiling!)

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Also worth hearing: the audiobook version of Schickele's famous "bio" of PDQ, read by Schickele himself. His self-deprecating and dry tone is hilarious. And each time he goes into a footnote, he has a little doorbell sound that goes BING before the footnote and BONG on the way out. There are a couple places where the footnotes are nested, and we hear several BINGs and eagerly await the BONGs to come back off the stack.



Julian Mincham wrote (January 13, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote [Mendelssohn, hint of Bach]:
< So far, the biggest discovery for me is the youthful Mendelssohn opera, <The Uncle from Boston> Brings back memories of my travellng days, many years ago. The easisest way to explain is with a bit of advice to musicians from PDQ Bach, aka Peter (Petrus?) Schiekle:
<You know you are spending too much time on the road when your kids call you Uncle Daddy.> >
OT Is Pete Schiekle still giving concerts in the US? He must be getting up now. I remember with great pleasure many of his parodies from the 1970s---the commentary on the first movement of Beethoven V by sports commentators was a masterpiece.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2009):
PDQ Bach / Peter Schickele

Best to fix up the spelling ofPDQ Bach/Peter Schickele (I first wrote Schiekle), and repeat his advice to travelling musicians:

<You know you are spending too much time on the road when your kids call you Uncle Daddy.>

Julian asked:
>Is Pete Schickele still giving concerts in the US?<
It appears so. For info on schedules, and much more, including the histroy of the late, lamented radio show, <Schickele Mix>, visit:

More 2008/2009 Concerts Announced (posted November 20, 2008)

Later in the season and towards the end of the year-long celebration of the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Schickele’s Lincoln at Ease will be performed by New York City’s Little Orchestra Society and narrated by none other than James Earl Jones. This entry in the Lincoln Bicentennial celebration will happen on February 28. And even later in the season brings a world premiere: a woodwind quintet that Mr. Schickele wrote for the Blair Woodwind Quintet will be performed by them in their own hometown of Nashville, Tennessee on March 16. Then if any more new concerts pop up this season, they too will be added to the concert page and announced right here.

Closer to home, at:

Brad Lehman wrote:
Somewhere in PDQ Bach's biography (I've misplaced my copy) there's an explanation of his composition "Peruckenstuck" (hair piece). But, the Bach Reader was there ahead of it with the "old wig" quip.


Bach, JS and Bach, PDQ

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 26, 2009):
There was a bit of interest in some recent chat re PDQ Bach. I think it worthwhile to inform BCML that the <The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach> by Peter Schickele (1976) remains not exactly in print, but available as a print to order, which I have just received via my local bookshop. Alas, I do not see this to be the elusive source of Schickeles advice to traveling musicians: <You know you are spending too much time on the road when your kids start calling you uncle daddy.>

In fact this source:
offers the same story, relevant to traveling salesmen. In true PDQ style, it would appear that Schickele simply liberated and adapted the more generalized urban folklore, making it specific to musicians.

From the same web source, I note a definition of uncle ed which some may find amusing. I do not.

The cover illustration for the PDQ biography establishes the relevance of Bach and beer, a generously filled and carlessly held tankard of [Belgian?] ale spills into his lap.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 26, 2009):
I do not see any challenges to the on-topic relevance of my initial post on the subject (JS and PDQ). Thus emboldened, I will add a few more details. The chronology Schickele suggests for PDQ, (1807-1742)?, in fact makes the chronology suggested by Rev. McCain (for Walther, as I recall, (1600-1742)) quite modest, by comparison. I point out to the critics of my explanations of diacritical marks, the excruciatingly (derived from the pain of execution by crucifixion?) precise and correct use of nested parentheses pairs, as well as the humble asterisk (*) standing in for quotation marks, in my previous sentence.

This seems like an opportune and relevant point to reiterate my decision to eliminate the use of quotation marks in my posts. I concede that this does in fact result in some unconventional, indeed occasionally even ceative, punctuation usage. On the plus side, you will not see my posts peppered with such things as Aeq?!m. Am I the only one who receives those?

I also point out, for the first time, that I no longer have a spell-checker available at all times. I could explain the exact details, but it would not really help understanding, and might aggravate the easily aggravated. I have no wish to do that intentionally; sometimes stuff happens.

In particular, I want to mention my use of carlessly in the first PDQ post, to describe the way he holds his ale tankard. I meant carelessly. That was simply a typographic error, no deep Joycean attempt at wit. Of course, either word is correct, but only the latter is relevant. In any case, I wonder if a spell-checker would have picked up the error? I will not bore you with the working out, but I could easily use carlessly in a proper sentence.


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