Monday, August 20, 2012

P.D.Q. Bach - 1712 Overture

Professor Peter Schickele and his alter ego P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742) are the funniest thing to happen to classic music since Victor Borge. P.D.Q. Bach is to classical music what Weird Al is to popular music. He is a talented composer and conductor who chooses to use his powers for silliness.

As you might guess, the 1712 Overture is a parody of the 1812 Overture and it simply must be heard to be believed. P.D.Q. Bach takes the familiar motifs from the 1812 Overture and twists them slightly, allowing their similarities to tunes such as "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Pop! Goes the Weasel" to shine through. It's a work of both sheer genius and sheer silliness. The canon fire in the original is replaced by balloons popping, which is absolutely hilarious. My older brother bought this album at Bookman's in Flagstaff on a family trip, and we all listened to it on the way back home. Actual painful side-splitting laughter ensued because our minds were not prepared for how hilarious it was going to be. The organ solo at the end of the piece was particularly hilarious (partially because the pedal work consisted of a single constantly-droning note) and caused a great deal of laughter.

In addition to the aforementioned 1712 Overture, this disc also contains a number of other P.D.Q. Bach works. While each is hilarious in its own way, I prefer The Preachers of Crimetheus (a ballet in one selfless act). This ballet brings in some of the more interesting instruments in the P.D.Q. Bach repertoire. These include the tromboon (trombone with a bassoon reed), slide whistle, windbreaker (pan pipes made of cardboard tubes), and lasso d'amore (rope with a whistle attached to the end). Each of these instruments stands out hilariously against the standard instrumentation of the piece. As it is with all P.D.Q. Bach works, it must be heard to be believed.

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