Celebrated as a composer, performer, author, and musical satirist, Peter Schickele was internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. He wrote over 100 works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensembles, and solo voice, as well as scores for film and television. He held "a leading role in the ever-more-prominent school of American composers who unselfconsciously blend all levels of American music" (John Rockwell, The New York Times).
Schickele's commissions were numerous and varied, ranging from works for the National Symphony and the Minnesota Opera to compositions for distinguished instrumentalists and singers. Symphony No. 1, "Songlines," was premiered by the National Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, and was later played by the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras around the country. Schickele arranged music for a variety of films, including Fantasia 2000 and Where the Wild Things Are, and narrated others, such as In the Night Kitchen. In the course of his career Schickele also created music for four feature films, among them the prize-winning Silent Running, as well as for documentaries, tv commercials, and several Sesame Street segments. He was also one of the composer/lyricists for Oh! Calcutta! and arranged for Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and other singer/songwriters. His syndicated radio program, Schickele Mix, ran on Public Radio International for many years beginning in January 1992, and won ASCAP's prestigious Deems Taylor Award.
In his well-known other role as creator of the oeuvre of the now-classic pseudonyms P.D.Q. Bach and Professor Peter Schickele, Schickele is acknowledged as one of the great satirists of the 20th century. In testimony, the Vanguard label has released 11 albums of the fabled genius's works; six have been released by Telarc. Random House has published eleven editions of The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach (which has also been translated into German and is available as an audiobook from the HighBridge Company), and VideoArts International has produced a recording of P.D.Q. Bach's only full-length opera, The Abduction of Figaro. Schickele toured for decades with three programs featuring his own music as well as that of his pseudonym P.D.Q. Bach: entitled "Peter Schickele Meets P.D.Q. Bach," "Son of P.D.Q. Bach" and "P.D.Q. Bach and Peter Schickele: The Jekyll & Hyde Tour." He was the recipient of five Grammys, most for Best Comedy Album.
Peter Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa, and brought up in Washington, D.C. and Fargo, North Dakota. Schickele and his wife, the poet Susan Sindall, split their time between New York City and Bearsville, NY. Schickele passed away at his home in Bearsville on January 16, 2024, leaving behind his wife as well as two children, both of whom are musicians.
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P.D.Q. Bach is a fictional composer created by musical satirist Peter Schickele. P.D.Q. Bach was described by Schickele as “the only forgotten son” of the Bach family, whose recently “discovered” works Schickele and a second persona, Professor Peter Schickele, performed over a five-decade career. The works of P.D.Q. Bach often parody famous musical material while employing conventions of Baroque and Classical period musical style.
Click to learn more about Schickele's alternate musical persona, P.D.Q. Bach.