Peter Schickele, a renowned composer and musical comedian, passed away at the age of 88 on January 16, 2024. His demise was attributed to a series of health complications, including infections, which ultimately confined him to his home in Woodstock, New York. Schickele was celebrated not only for his serious compositions but also for his creation of the comedic, fictional character P.D.Q. Bach, a parody of classical music that has left an enduring mark in the realm of music and comedy.
Schickele’s journey in music was marked by his unique ability to blend humor with classical compositions, creating a niche that resonated with audiences worldwide. His parodies, characterized by their drollery and educational value, included memorable pieces like the “Concerto for Horn and Hardart,” which humorously elongated a Mozart appoggiatura, and the “Quodlibet,” which ingeniously combined melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies with Schoenberg and Puccini’s pieces.
Beyond his comedic exploits, Schickele was a serious and accomplished composer. His classical recordings include works like American Dreams” by the Audubon Quartet, “Quartet No. 1, “American Chamber Ensemble Plays Peter Schickele” and “Schickele on a Lark” by the Lark Quartet. He also contributed to the film industry, composing the score for the 1972 science fiction film “Silent Running,” and contributed songs to the Broadway revue “Oh! Calcutta!”
In the 1990s, Schickele took a break from the road and P.D.Q. Bach, turning his attention to his radio show, “Schickele Mix.” This show, which ran for about 15 years, featured serious discussions on music and showcased works by a diverse range of composers, from Chopin to Gershwin and Philip Glass. Even after retiring from the concert stage, Schickele’s passion for music and comedy continued to shine through his work.
Peter Schickele’s legacy is multifaceted, marked by his contributions to both the serious and comedic aspects of music. He is survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren, and his work continues to inspire and entertain, transcending generations with its unique blend of musicality and humor. His passing marks the end of an era in the world of classical music parody, but his creations, especially the character of P.D.Q. Bach, will continue to bring laughter and joy to many.