February 15, 2014
Most people know of Peter Schickele through his alter ego, PDQ Bach (1807-1742?), the apocryphal and humorous “twenty-first of Johann’s twenty children.”
Schickele, however, is also a Julliard-trained composer who has written a huge body of symphonies, chamber ensembles, requiems, brass serenades, cabaret songs, films scores and much more.
On May 3, the Michael Teolis Singers will perform Schickele’s concerto for piano and voice “The Twelve Months.” Importantly, this is not a vocal work with piano accompaniment — this is an actual piano concerto, in five movements, with the chorus acting as orchestra.
This fascinating work shows off Schickele’s skill as a composer of choral music, and provides a fantastic showcase for a pianist. It also shows off the Singers in unusual ways, using voices to create rich textures, mellifluous lines and unexpected rhythms. The music is serious and demanding, but is not without flashes of Schickele’s humor, too.
I had the privilege to premier the piece in the Midwest with the William Ferris Chorale in 2002, with the composer present. Some of the singers who performed it then are part of MTS now. We are also able to bring back the excellent pianist Justin Kolb, to reprise his performance — we’ll ask Justin to contribute his thoughts in a future note.
It’s hard to peg Schickele. He’s a writer, a radio host, a performer, a satirist, and a musicologist. He even wrote his own crossword puzzle for his website. But there is no doubting his musical bona fides. He trained with Roy Harris and Darius Milhaud, as well as with Vincent Persichetti at the Julliard School of Music. Schickele even taught for a time at Julliard.
No one could effectively produce the material he has for PDQ Bach without a firm grasp of music history and composition. And in the “The Twelve Months,” you’ll hear a whole different side of him — mark May 3 on your calendars, and please come join us.