Composer, musician, author, satirist – PETER SCHICKELE is internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. His works, now well in excess of 100 for symphony orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, voice, movies, and television, have given him “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).
Recent premieres include the Symphony No. 2, “The Sweet Season”; the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, “In Memoriam F.D.R.”; the “New Goldberg Variations” for cello and piano, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax; the Symphony No. 1, “Songlines,” premiered by the National Symphony and since performed by such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra; the Concerto for Chamber Orchestra; and Blue Set No. 1, a jazz string quartet commissioned by the Greene Quartet and recorded on the Virgin label. The Armadillo String Quartet has presented annual concerts of Schickele’s chamber music in Los Angeles since 1991.
Among other recordings recently released are the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, on Summit Records, and an all-Schickele chamber music disc by the American Chamber Ensemble, published by Mid-America Productions. Other recordings include the Grammy Award-winning Hornsmoke, featuring the title piece as well as Brass Calendar and other works for brass quintet, on Newport Classics; “Schickele on a Lark,” with the Lark Quartet on Arabesque; and another album of chamber music for strings, with the Audubon Quartet on Centaur. Other compositions may be heard on RCA Red Seal, Vanguard, CRI, D’Note, Carlton, Koch International, and MusicMasters.
Peter Schickele arranged one of the musical segments for the Disney animated feature film Fantasia 2000. He also created the musical score for the film version of Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are, issued on VHS along with another Sendak classic, In the Night Kitchen, which Schickele narrates. Among his varied projects is a weekly, syndicated radio program, Schickele Mix, which has been heard nationwide over Public Radio International since January 1992 and which won ASCAP’s prestigious Deems Taylor Award.
In his well-known other role as perpetrator of the oeuvre of the now-classic P.D.Q. Bach, Peter Schickele is acknowledged as one of the great satirists of the 20th century. In testimony, Vanguard has released 11 albums of the fabled genius’ works; Random House has published 11 editions of The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach (which has also been translated into German, and is available as an audio book from the HighBridge Company); Theodore Presser has printed numerous scores; VideoArts International has produced a cassette of P.D.Q. Bach’s only full-length opera, The Abduction of Figaro, which was premiered by the Minnesota Opera (in the 1989 summer season it was given 28 successive sold-out performances in Sweden by the Dramatiske Ensemblen); and his Telarc discs “P.D.Q. Bach: 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults,” “Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities,” “WTWP – Classical Talkity-Talk Radio,” and “Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion” won Grammy awards in the Best Comedy Album category each year from 1990 through 1993. In addition to his touring, he continues to present both old and new discoveries of his music in New York City each December. In 1998 Telarc released a new recording of P.D.Q. Bach’s music called “The Ill-Conceived P.D.Q. Bach Anthology.” Vanguard has issued its own recent compilation on CD, “The Dreaded P.D.Q. Bach Collection.”
Peter Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa, and brought up in Washington, D.C., and Fargo, North Dakota, where he studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He graduated from Swarthmore in 1957, having had the distinction of being the only music major (as he had been, earlier, the only bassoonist in Fargo), and by that time he had already composed and conducted four orchestral works, a great deal of chamber music, and some songs. He subsequently studied composition with Roy Harris and Darius Milhaud, and with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma at the Juilliard School of Music. Then, under a Ford Foundation grant, he composed music for high schools in Los Angeles before returning to teach at Juilliard in 1961. In 1965 he gave up teaching to become the freelance composer/performer he has been ever since.
Schickele and his wife, the poet Susan Sindall, reside in New York City and at an upstate hideaway where he concentrates on composing. His son and daughter are involved in various alternative rock groups, both as composers and performers.