Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Houston, We Have a Problem!

First, I want to say: Hi Maricello, Wecome. I want to get back to Maricello's question of ornament in accompaninent. I'm thinking the answer is mostly no, but maybe we can think of some exceptions. Maricello has her own blog, Cello Centered, at maricello.blogspot.com.

Ok, as promised, I have seen Peter Schickele's DVD, Houston, We have a Problem! Yes, there are quite a few lame gags and excessively silly spots. But for me, there's also quite a few worthwhile laughs, too.

Professor Schikele, while also a serious composer, has been a major recording artist in the field of musical satire for 40 years. His shtick, in case you've been living under a rock those 40 years, is as the discoverer, biographer, and researcher of the previously unknown 18th century composer P.D.Q. Bach, love child of Johann Sebastian.

The DVD is of a recent concert in Houston. The orchestra that participates and plays along with Schikele's merry antics is identified only as Orchestra X. Except for the conductor, and an elderly beret-ed accordian player, the orchestra is all college kids. Clearly, they are having a blast. It's all the more enjoyable to remember being that young and having that much enjoyment out of band. Ah, to be young, with boundles energy, a sense of humor, and no pretensions of maturity to maintain.

For me, the best part of the DVD is the Unbegun Symphony, which only has a 3rd and 4th movement. P.D.Q. is alleged to have never written an original note in his life. While some composers are known to have stolen a theme or two from other composers, P.D.Q. is the only composer to have composed major works entirely on tracing paper. The Unbegun Symphony is a sophisticated pastische of well-known classics and popular songs of the past. It opens by interweaving a section of the Mozart Jupiter symphony; Du, Du Liegst Mir In Herzen; and Cieito Lindo all together. One of my favorite spots is when the the horns are playing that well-known part of the 1812 Overture while the lower strings are playing Schubert's 9th Symphony and the high strings are playing You Are My Sunshine. Smultaneously. Great stuff.

Also a treat were the vocal duets and trios in Odden and Enden on the bonus features portion of the DVD. Also, the interview of Schickele on KUHT. Schickele relates how he started these shenanigan's in college as a composition student, such as discovering that a part of the Bach cello suites goes together perfectly with the then-popular pop song Brazil.

The New Horizon's in Music Appreciation skit, however, along with other portions of the DVD, get just too silly. Sight gags were added that wouldn't have made sense in an audio recording, but are just too much over the top for my taste.

Below is a list of the pieces on the DVD:

“Desecration of the House” Overture

Schleptet in Eb major, S. 0
- Molto Larghissimo—Allegro Boffo
- Menuetto con Brio ma Senza Trio
- Adagio Saccharino
- Yehudi Menuetto
- Presto Hey Nonny Nonnio

Iphigenia in Brooklyn, S. 53,162
- I. Trumpet Involuntary
- II. Aria: “When Hyperion”
- III. Recitative: “And Lo!”
- IV. Ground: “Dying”
- V. Recitative: “And in a vision”
- VI. Aria: “Running”

“Unbegun” Symphony
- III. Minuet
- IV. Andante—Allegro

New Horizons in Music Appreciation
- Allegro con brio from Symphony No. 5 in c minor (Beethoven)

Fuga Meshuga, from The Musical Sacrifice, S. 50% off

The Seasonings, S. 1 1/2 tsp.
- Chorus: “Tarragon of virtue is full”
- Recitative: “And there were in the same country”
- Duet: “Bide thy thyme”
- Fugue
- Recitative: “Then asked he”
- Chorale: “By the leeks of Babylon”
- Recitative: “Then she gave in”
- Aria: “Open sesame seeds"
- Recitative: “So saying”
- Duet: “Summer is a cumin seed”
- Soloists and Chorus: “To curry favor, favor curry”

With DVD Bonus Selections:

- “Unbegun” Symphony with Theme Identifications

- Odden und Enden
- The Mule
- Three-Step Crab Dinner
- O Serpent
- Johann Sebastian Bach (Prof. Schickele)
- Please, Kind Sir, from The Art of the Ground Round

- KUHT interview with Peter Schickele

Or look at http://www.schickele.com/shoppe/houstondvd.htm for more info.

1 comment:

Maricello said...

Thanks for the welcome, but I have visited before, as Marilyn. I was inspired by you and others to start my own blog.

Loved your description of the young orchestra--it was that sort of enthusiasm and humor, displayed by my son in 5th grade band, that made me think music is so much fun; I must start playing again.