I'll be Bach
Review by Ross Anthony

When the conductor enters the stage on a kick scooter -- you can be pretty sure the rest of the evening won't be business as usual. In fact, "business as unusual" would be more accurate. Well, I won't spend too much time explaining the concert, you can read the promotional notes (below) for that. Here instead, I'll draft a short review -- my impressions of the performance. Peter Schickele is quite funny; his podium monologues are delivered with spontaneity, whit and a great deal of fun. The audience loved them. Dry, punny and playful, his humor, timing, and casual expressions remind me of Martin Mull. The music, too, ripe with humor and surprise sets the hall rolling with laughter especially for the first few pieces. But as the evening continues, the surprises gradually lose their punch, settling into "mildly amusing" by the end of the show.

I personally enjoyed the addition of balloons into the orchestra -- what a wonderfully colorful lightness to bring to rich music. Sometimes, I closed my eyes so that Schickele's buoyant body conducting wouldn't alert me to any of the musical "jacks in the box." Though obviously silly, much of the composition is splendid listening in its own right. I wouldn't mind a CD. However a duel-gendered kazoo bit fell flat on the floor in my opinion. Still, the audience roared over it. I enjoyed the other unusual instruments and hope to see them further exploited in future performances of PDQ. Lastly, though the final piece goes long, the quality of the bass singer's voice captivated me.

The more you know your classical music, the greater your enjoyment of this good-hearted symphonic ribbing.

As always the Pasadena Symphony orchestra plays with beauty and poise.


Hilarious musical zaniness will be the order of the evening when The Pasadena Symphony takes the stage for "P.D.Q. Bach vs. Pasadena," the orchestra's 75th Anniversary Benefit Concert on Saturday, March 29, 8 P.M. at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Under the baton of Music Director Jorge Mester, The Pasadena Symphony puts its usual serious concert fare on the back burner for a program featuring the eccentric "Professor Peter Schickele" character, "discoverer" of the tongue-in-cheek orchestral works of the fabled P.D.Q. Bach, described by Professor Schickele as the 23rd of Johann Sebastian Bach's 22 sons. augmented with such "instruments" as slide whistles, fog horn, heavy cloth for tearing, baby rattle and inflated balloons, the symphony will tackle P.D.Q. Bach works including the Howdy Symphony, Eine kleine Nichtmusik, Hindenburg Concerto, Fuga Meshuga and The Seasonings.

A "Premier Ticket" package is available, which includes premium seating, free parking, and an after-concert party at Delmonico's Seafood Grille in Pasadena chaired by Charlene Johnson and Alicia Garcia Clark featuring entertainment by Art Deco and his Society Orchestra as well as an appearance by Schickele himself.

This concert is the first all-P.D.Q. Bach performance staged in Los Angeles since April Fool's Day 1991, which Mester and The Pasadena Symphony also presented. Designed as a special benefit concert, it will reprise the seminal roles of the two original P.D.Q. Bach "perpetrators." Mester conducted the first public performances of Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach "discoveries" beginning in 1965. Schickele is currently serving as Composer-In-Residence for The Pasadena Symphony's 75th Anniversary Season, and the orchestra performs three of his serious classical works, including a world premiere, this season.

Selecting Peter Schickele as Composer-In-Residence was a natural choice for Mester, whose personal and professional relationship with the noted composer, musician, author and satirist began at Juilliard when they were both students. Of his esteemed colleague Mester says, "Peter is the quintessential American composer, and that is reflected in his music. I am deeply grateful to him for his immense contribution to our 75th Anniversary Season."

Schickele adds, "Jorge and I have been both musical colleagues and personal friends for over 40 years, and he has performed and recorded many of my more serious works as well as the P.D.Q. Bach 'discoveries.' He's an inspired musician, as are the members of The Pasadena Symphony, so I know that my music is in good hands."

Schickele is internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. His works, now well in excess of 100 for symphony orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, movies and television, draw upon a broad range of musical inspirations and have placed him as a leader among American composers. His commissions are numerous and varied, ranging from works for the National Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Audubon and Lark String Quartets, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, and many other such Organizations to compositions for distinguished instrumentalists and singers. The Pasadena Symphony premiered his cello concerto, In Memoriam FDR, in 2000.

In his other well-known role as perpetrator of the oeuvre of the now classic P.D.Q. Bach "character," Schickele is acknowledged as one of the great satirists of the 20th century. In testimony, Vanguard has released 11 albums of the fabled genius's works; Random House has published eleven editions of The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach; Theodore Presser has printed innumerable scores; and Video Arts International has produced a cassette of P.D.Q. Bach's only full-length opera, The Abduction of Figaro. Four of his comedy music recordings on the Telarc label earned four consecutive Grammy Awards in the Best Comedy Album category from 1990 through 1993, including P.D.Q. Bach: 1912 Overture and Other Musical Assaults, Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities, WTWP - Classical Talkity -Talk Radio, and Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion.

Schickele underscores Mester's key role in P.D.Q. Bach history by saying, "When I decided to take a break from touring with P.D.Q. Bach in the early 1990s, I went out of my way to make my final concert appearance with Jorge Mester and The Pasadena Symphony. Jorge had been the very first conductor of P.D.Q. Bach at an in-house student concert at the Juilliard School of Music in May of 1959, and he was also the conductor of the first public concert in New York City's Town Hall in April of 1965."

The Los Angeles Times has described The Pasadena Symphony as a "virtuoso orchestra" and Mester as "a virtuosic conductor" with "passionate vision." The Times also praised, "...the orchestra's substantial, demonstrated abilities" and "the inspiring leadership of Jorge Mester, its conductor since 1984 and a maker of demanding programs of broad scope." Founded in 1928 and currently celebrating its 75th Anniversary, the renowned Pasadena Symphony presents eight blockbuster concerts at the historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium this season. In addition to its acclaimed concerts, The Pasadena Symphony presents an array of innovative education programs designed for people of all ages and music levels. It also enjoys wide-spread community support. Among the orchestra's support groups are 1st Strings, a group of people in the 20s to 40s age range that combines concert-going with social events, and Amigos de la Sinfonica, comprised of classical music enthusiasts from the Hispanic community.

Mester has served as Music Director of The Pasadena Symphony since 1984. He is also the Conductor Laureate of the Aspen Music Festival.

This March 29 Benefit Concert is sponsored by Avery Dennison. K-Mozart 105.1 FM is the Major Media Sponsor of The Pasadena Symphony.

Post-Event Party following concert (at Delmonico's Seafood Grille with purchase of Premier Ticket only)

Premier Tickets are $125 per person. Tickets to the concert only are $35, $50, $65 and $80. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is located at 300 E. Green Street in Pasadena. For single tickets, please call (626) 584-8833; for group sales or season subscriptions, please call (626) 793-7172 or visit www.pasadenasymphony.org. (Programs and Artists Subject to Change )

  • "P.D.Q. BACH VS. PASADENA". Copyright © 2003.

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:27 PDT