I had the good fortune on Monday to hear a P.D.Q. Bach concert, presented by the inimitable Peter Schickele at the Town Hall auditorium. I had Schickele/PDQ’s music inflicted on me repeatedly at an early age (thanks, Mom!) and I’ve got all the CDs, etc. etc.
This concert was a riot. Most of the material was pretty familiar – who among us, after all, has not heard the Beethoven sportscast number? – but that even the umpteenth time, that shit is STILL FUNNY. Schickele is getting on in years and can no longer swing down onto the stage on a rope as he used to, but his comic delivery hasn’t changed, and as he demonstrated in the excerpts from Oedipus Tex that closed the concert, he can still belt out a Texas-sized aria. (And play continuo on a wheezy little keyboard/accordion thing that I couldn’t identify.)
My favorite parts, though, were the arrangement of “Swing low, sweet chariot” and the “Uptown Hoedown.” Like the “Unbegun Symphony” and a few other similar pieces Schickele has written, these are pastiches of whole bunches of tunes; every time I hear one of these, I catch more references in it than I did the previous time. In this case – did you know that you could arrange “Swing low, sweet chariot,” in such a way that the vocal part (sung by tenor Brian Dougherty) consists entirely of “Danny Boy”? And also that the whole thing can get mixed up with the Battle Hymn of the Republic and end on the final chords of Tristan and Isolde?