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PDQ Bach's Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra

Reviews

* Review: Palm Beach ArtsPaper: "Pianist Biegel clowns, shines in P.D.Q. Bach at SoFla Symphony"

"The Simply Grand Concerto is a goofy mix of straight-ahead Classical-era writing in the manner of early Beethoven and whimsical bits of Schickele shtick, such as a solo piccolo playing on an exposed upbeat; a short rock cadence to end the main theme (which makes clever use of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony); unexpected woodblocks and gongs; passages that wander well into the late 20th century; bits of jazz and boogie in the slow movement; a moment of the Light Cavalry Overture in the finale. Schickele is able to always create a seemingly normal older universe in which the listener immediately senses that something is strangely awry. He knows, in other words, how to be a musical dramatist, so ably that the audience is listening with hyper-attention in anticipation of the next joke. And there were the usual bits of slapstick: Biegel couldn't figure out how to open the keyboard at the beginning; a dancer in top hat and cane wandered out for a minute; Biegel sat there waiting in the silence when he should have been playing the cadenza, and gags that echoed keyboard humorists such as Victor Borge. The modest audience Sunday afternoon seemed to have a good deal of fun with the piece, laughing out loud in most places. It's also rather tricky in spots for the pianist, but Biegel played everything with style and ease, and he seemed to be having a wonderful time. He came out for an encore, a tender, subtle reading of the well-known Waltz in C-sharp minor (Op. 64, No. 2) of Chopin."

By Greg Stepanich - Palm Beach ArtsPaper - April 6, 2017


* "Simply" sym-funny: Classical concert delivers laughs

Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra patrons may hear more challenging, thought-provoking works this season, but they won't have as much fun as they will at today's concert as Saturday night's show put the funny in the symphony.

Pardon the pun, but after an evening of Peter Schickele humor, it's hard not to keep laughing.

Though he never stepped on stage, the composer was the star of the show as the FMSO gave his brand new piece, "Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra!" a vivid performance.

Technically, the piece was by P.D.Q. Bach, the long lost son of Johann Sebastian Bach, or rather, the brainchild of Schickele, who graduated from Fargo Central High School. His fictional foil – who was conceived on a visit to town in the 1950s – allows the composer to poke fun at classical music convention and the results tickled the funnybones of those in Festival Concert Hall.

Pianist Jeffrey Biegel was the right fit in the main role, playing for laughs while hitting all of the right notes on the keyboard. It was the part he was meant to play, as he commissioned the work, with various symphonies co-sponsoring the writing. Biegel is as deft on the keys as he is with slapstick, mugging for the crowd, pretending to be sleeping, or impatiently waiting to play. When he did play, it was, well, "Simply Grand."

While anyone can make jokes about how stuffy classical music can be, what makes Schickele such a gem is his seamless blending of the serious and the spoof. He doesn't sacrifice sophistication for satire. Schickele laughs at what he loves. He throws shade at Mozart and Haydn and breaks an homage to Mozart into a boogie-woogie. [...]

Schickele, 81, sat in the front row for the show and took a bow with the well-deserved standing ovation at show's end. It was wonderful to see him embraced for a lifetime of helping people laugh at and love good music.

By John Lamb - WDAY 6 - Fargo, ND - March 18, 2017


* YouTube video of "PDQ Bach Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra"

Performance by Philharmonia Northwest; Julia Tai, conducting; Jeffrey Biegel, Piano; Benaroya Hall, Seattle; March 25, 2017


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