Peter SCHICKELE (b. 1953) A Year in the Catskills (2009) [21:33]
Gardens (1968) [6:21]
What Did You Do Today at Jeffrey’s House? (1988) [5:17]
Dream Dances (1988) [12:14]
Diversions (1963) [6:38]
Blair Woodwind Quintet (Jane Kirchner (flute); Jared Hauser (oboe); Cassandra Lee (clarinet); Cynthia Estill (bassoon); Leslie Norton (horn)); Felix Wang (cello); Melissa Rose (piano)
rec. Ingram Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, 9-10 May, 2009; 20 November 2009 and 24 November 2009.
NAXOS 8.559687 [52:03]
It is a good and joyful thing to see a nice collection of Peter
Schickele’s concert music. Not that he is unduly famous for
his P.D.Q. Bach character, but as a composer of serious music
he shines as one of the most original voices of his generation.
Schickele has not invented a new wheel, rather he has managed
to take traditional musical gestures and season them with his
own invention with the skill of a master chef. This collection
of chamber music, deftly rendered by members of the faculty
of Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, is a showcase of the
composer’s unique wit and creativity.
Commissioned by the Blair Quintet, A Year in the Catskills
was brand new at the time of this recording. It is a picturesque
work; full of the kind of interesting twists of melody that
make Schickele’s music so fascinating. He is prone to shifting
one or two notes in a tune by a semitone here or a semitone
there to make what could sound quite ordinary into something
that is unique and quirky.
The brief triptych Gardens, for oboe and piano is a study
in colors. One of Schickele’s outstanding features is his ability
to say so much in a very short time. I wouldn’t call him a miniaturist,
but he can get his point across with little fuss. Such are these
elegant little pieces that depict a garden at the three parts
of the day. Jared Hauser plays with a sweet unforced tone, and
is sensitively accompanied by pianist Melissa Rose.
What Did You Do Today at Jeffrey’s House? is a bit of
nostalgia based on memories of the composer’s playtime with
a childhood friend. These are whimsical pieces, pulling from
a number of styles including a rollicking boogie-woogie ending.
Scored for horn and piano, Leslie Norton and Melissa Rose find
all the charm of these brief episodes. I can’t say that I was
completely in love with the pieces themselves, as they came
across to these ears as a bit contrived.
The outstanding work in this recital is the lovely set of Dream
Dances. Scored for flute, oboe and cello, Schickele combines
the old and the new by creating a suite that is reminiscent
of a Baroque partita, but just for fun he throws in the semi-modern
by replacing the Courrant with a Jitterbug and the Allemande
with a Waltz. It is pretty much genius really, and Jane Kirschner,
Jared Hauser and Felix Wang deliver an elegant performance full
Diversions, scored for oboe, clarinet and bassoon are
again whimsical, and depict three specific scenes, a hot bath,
a billiard game, and a New York bar. Although I felt that the
composer captured his scenes well, I can’t say that I was particularly
moved by these little snapshots, in spite of their being very
Peter Schickele is reported to be one of the most performed
composers in America, and it is easy to see why. The term accessible
gets too much airplay, but his music is almost always captivating,
mainly due to his double ability to color within the lines while
choosing shades that don’t come from just any box of crayons.
A good listen.
Colorful, original, whimsical, and adventuresome, this collection
of musical short stories from one of America’s most diverse
composers has something to please every ear.
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