PDQ Bach, reputed to be the "only forgotten son" of the illustrious Johann Sebastian, has been the subject of a lifetime of dedicated research by the self-styled musical-ologist, Professor Peter Schickele. the (in)famous scholar appeared at the Opera House on Saturday night as the guest of the SSO Benevolent Fund in its 44th Annual Gala Concert. It was an opportunity for the normally serious members of the SSO to let down their hair, those of course who were so equipped.
The result was musical mayhem and mirth, all for a good cause, and the near capacity house had every cause for enjoyment, Schickele's merry pranks (as opposed to those devised by Strauss - I mean Richard, not Johann, Oscar or Levi) are aimed as much at the audience as at the musicians who must play his (and PDQ's) ridiculous scores, Schickele depends on a regular concert-going audience to appreciate his observant parodies of stage etiquette and performance mannerisms that, in other circumstances, are taken, however absurd, without any hint of levity.
Similarly his musical jokes surely must delight audiences and the seasoned orchestral member alike, to say nothing of the odd (very odd) fellow musical-ologist as they ride the flood of musical quotations streaming by. After all, who else but PDQ could allude to Tristan, Aida, and Petrushka in his Mozartean serenade, Eine Kleine Nichtmusik?
to help the good Professor, and his long-suffering sidekick William Walters were an amiable bunch of the SSO's best players, in top form and held together in often side-splitting situations by the clarity oif Mark Summerbell's conducting. To maintain professional poise, let alone a straight face, in the midst of such chaos is an achievement in itself - try laughing and playing the french horn simultaneously.
Schikele's (sic) humour moves between inventive musical wit, numerous andclever puns, and a fair share of broad slapstick. If there is a reservation about his humour it is that sometimes a joke is extended beyond its life span.
Written by David Vance