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Composer and Musical Parodist Peter Schickele has Died, Aged 88

Schickele was best known for creating the character of P. D. Q. Bach, allegedly the long-lost son of Johann Sebastian


The composer and parodist Peter Schickele, who was most beloved for his comedic character P. D. Q. Bach, has passed away at the age of 88.

Born in Iowa in 1935, Schickele was the son of Alsatian immigrant parents. He first began to learn composition from Sigvald Thompson while the family was living in Fargo, North Dakota and continued his studies at Swarthmore College — where he became the first student to receive a music degree. This was followed by studies with Roy Harris and Vincent Persichetti at The Juilliard School.

Schickele created the character of P. D. Q. Bach, a fictional "forgotten son" of the Bach family whose works had recently been re-discovered by Schickele himself. In 1965, the P. D. Q. character received his first major public airing at the Manhattan Town Hall and became immensely popular.

By the late 1980s, Schickele was taking the P. D. Q. act on tour for six months of each year, an activity that essentially subsidized his other composing. Throughout his career, Schickele received five GRAMMY Awards, four of which were for Best Comedy Album.

Schickele was frequently frustrated that his sizeable output of non-parodic compositions never reached as large an audience as his parody work did. He wrote more than 100 symphonic, choral, solo instrumental and chamber works, and received commissions from groups such as the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Lark Quartet. He also wrote film scores and musical numbers for Broadway, and music for folk artists such as Joan Baez.

"I certainly would like my other stuff to be better known,” he told the music journalist Bruce Duffie in a 1988 interview. "I guess I would have to say I’m jealous."

Our condolences to Mr. Schickele's family, friends, and colleagues.

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