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Not Even Bach Is Sacred

25 NOV 07 VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

It seems fitting that Telarc's recording of P.D.Q. Bach: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour opens with uproarious laughter, which is never in short supply where Peter Schickele is concerned.

For those new to the satirical world of P.D.Q. Bach, Schickele was a 30-year-old Juilliard trained composer when he invented P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742?) over forty years ago, subsequently rebranding himself as Professor Peter Schickele of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople -- the world's sole authority on P.D.Q. Bach, supposedly the last of J.S. Bach's innumerable offspring.

Schickele mercilessly lampoons the classical music world with witty banter, parodying famous repertory and composers and offering clever (if groan-inducing) jokes and puns. For example, he explains that the German poet Schiller had a girlfriend called Freude ("Joy" in English) who lent him money. So Schiller was inspired to write a poem about what he "Owed to Joy."

There are also plenty of amusing spoof performances on this disc, which features Michäle Eaton, an "off coloratura soprano," David Düsing, a "tenor profundo" who is "particularly good in the German repertoire because he has an umlaut in his name," and the Armadillo Quartet. You can't help chuckling while listening to P.D.Q. Bach's "Der Cowboykönig" from "Four Next to Last Songs" and the "Allegro ma non troposphere" and "Menuetto no sweato" from the String Quartet in F Major, "The Moose."