Peter Schickele With the Lark Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Peter Schickele With the Lark Quartet


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Iowa native Peter Schickele claims to have been the only bassoonist in Fargo, North Dakota, in the 50s, but today he's better known as a composer, a pianist, and the leading (and only) authority on P.D.Q. Bach, a fictitious son of Johann Sebastian. His presentations of P.D.Q.'s "undiscovered" work skewer concert-hall etiquette and the pretensions of classical music while sneaking in a lesson or two in cultural history. Schickele's a master mimic, and his alter ego's oeuvre has turned out to be an encyclopedia of disparate styles and sly pop-cultural references; he's won Grammys with a few P.D.Q. albums, including Oedipus Tex & Other Choral Calamities and Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion. But with the exception of an annual P.D.Q. concert at Carnegie Hall, since the early 90s Schickele has been neglecting the imaginary Bach to focus on his own compositions, which include at least one proper symphony and a piece written for Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, New Goldberg Variations for Cello and Piano. In 1997 he wrote his Piano Quintet no. 2 for the Lark Quartet, an outstanding second-tier group that had collaborated with the composer in the past; he'll play the piece with the Lark this Sunday at a concert that kicks off the Chamber Music Society of the North Shore's season. Unsurprisingly, Schickele's compositions aren't particularly original, blending an armload of idioms--but his skillful pastiche comes off as more than just tongue-in-cheek. The quintet (available on the Arabesque CD Schickele on a Lark) combines Brahmsian gestures with American pop and folk genres from square-dancing tunes to boogie-woogie in a neat mix of nostalgia and modernity, melancholy and exuberance. Also on the program are string quartets by Borodin (his second) and Shostakovich (his first). Sunday, 3 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 847-835-5084 or 847-491-5441. Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve J. Sherman.

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