Composers Datebook®

Peter Schickele

Peter Schickele (b. 1935): Pentangle (Five Songs for French Horn and Orchestra) (Kenneth Albrecht, fh; Louisville Orch; Jorge Mester, cond.) Albany TROY-024

Composer's Datebook - July 17, 2021


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July 17, 2021


Today’s date in 1935 marks the birthday of the American composer Peter Schickele, best known for his outrageous musical parodies supposedly penned by the fictional P.D.Q. Bach, the "last and least of the great Johann Sebastian Bach’s 20-odd children, and the oddest.”  Some radio listeners may also have fond memories of the inventive radio series he created entitled Schickele Mix, dedicated to the proposition “that all musics are created equal.”

Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa, and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he began his study of composition. He later attended Swarthmore College and the Juilliard School, where one of his classmates was fellow-composer Philip Glass. It was at Juilliard that Schickele’s talent for parody created the works of P.D.Q. Bach, and these humorous pieces proved so popular at Juilliard concerts that they were eventually presented at Lincoln Center and even Carnegie Hall.

The tremendous success of P.D.Q. Bach’s music has overshadowed the more serious concert works written under Schickele’s own name. That’s not to say there’s a lack of wit in Schickele’s “serious” music—far from it. But while P.D.Q. Bach’s works may elicit belly laughs, Schickele’s music can evoke more pensive emotions, not without an occasional smile, of course.

Music Played in Today's Program

Peter Schickele (b. 1935): Pentangle (Five Songs for French Horn and Orchestra) (Kenneth Albrecht, fh; Louisville Orch; Jorge Mester, cond.) Albany TROY-024

On This Day


  • 1832 - Swedish composer August Söderman, in Stockholm

  • 1875 - English composer, pianist, and music scholar Sir Donald Tovey, in Eton

  • 1935 - American composer and musical satirist Peter Schickele, in Ames, Iowa; He "discovered" and performed the music of P.D.Q Bach (1807-1742?)


  • 1937 - French composer and conductor Gabriel Pierné, age 73, in Ploujean, Brittany

  • 1967 - Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, age 40, in Huntington, Long Island (New York


  • 1717 - Handel: "Water Music" on the river Thames, during a royal barge trip from Whitehall to Chelsea (Gregorian date: July 28)

  • 1927 - Milhaud: opera "L'enlèvement d'Europe" (The Rape of Europa), in Baden-Baden at the Stadthalle

  • 1975 - Sallinen: opera, "The Horseman" at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland

  • 1983 - Sir Lenox Berkeley: Cello Concerto, in Manchester.


  • 1877 - Otto Dessoff conducts the Vienna Philharmonic on its first concert tour to Salzburg, as part of a three-day "Salzburger Musikfest" (Salzburg Music Festival) on July 17-19; The orchestra would return to Salzburg in 1879, 1891, 1901, 1904, 1906, and 1910, for special concerts, and in 1925 the annual "Salzburg Festival" was established, with the Vienna Philharmonic as the Festival's prominent participant