Friday night the people of Provo were treated to an evening of musical whimsey and delight at the “sometimes annual” April Fool’s Concert held in the de Jong Concert Hall. It was staged in memory of “P. D. Q. Bach (1807-1742),” an alleged member of the musical Bach clan, by Dr. David Dalton, his colleagues, and students.
The rowdy, sometimes foot – stomping enthusiasm of the audience was ample proof of P. D. Q.’s genius, not merely in composing but also in imitating, borrowing, and compromising inspirational musical gems of other composers, both before and after his time.
The concert began with P D Q ‘s “Fanfare for a Common Cold,” opus 98.7. It brought great relief to those who missed it. But things began looking up even more in the second number when David Zabriskie and Karen Kirkham played Zabriskie’s “Variations on the Cougareat for Twenty Thumbs.” This piano piece was based on the BYU fight song and was done in the style and vein of P.D.Q. at his best, taking a perfectly well done piece and subjecting it to the additional fire of the composers musical genius.
Professors Dalton, Harold Laycock, and Reed Nibley then performed P.D.Q.’s very difficult “Sonata for Viola Four Hands and Harpsichord.” The Andanteeny, Molto Fast, and Allah B-reve movements amazed the audience as the two hands and two bows flashed up and down over the strings of the single viola, showing how much music there really is in a box with four strings.
The highlight of this piece, however, was the Ground Round movement when they played a ground on a round consisting of one note played for more than three minutes without a break. For this they used a specially invented bow which required the services of two additional stage hands to get it properly unrolled and rolled. Nibley’s ivory (plastic?) work supplied a continuous background that somehow authenticated the movement and made it one sweet note.
The last half of the program was devoted to some of the larger works of P.D.Q. with the skeleton crew of the chamber orchestra performing his “Schleptet in E Flat Major,” opus O. I have seldom heard a college group able to play so well in tune, though P.D.Q. very thoughtfully wrote some alternate parts for those who couldn’t. These parts were somewhat in evidence, particularly in the tune up. Some movements of this work were stronger and more scholarly than others with this reviewer being particularly impressed by the Yehudi Menuetto and the Presto Hey Nonny Nonnio.
For a change of pace the chamber choir, under the direction of Professor Woodward, performed two madrigals from P.D.Q.’s “The Triumphs of Thusnelda.” opusss 1601. Woodward’s Astairesque conducting was not only a visual delight but brought out the singers’ best efforts as they imparted profundity and musical meaning to the texts. ”The Queen to Me A Royal Pain doth Give, ‘ and “My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth (or “Scenteth” as I have rendered it since there is some ambiguity in P.D.Q.’s original Platter Deutsch text). This piece was marred only by a psychotic seizure suffered by one of the tenors who saw himself as a trumpet and began performing (trumpeting) out of context (Dixie Land Jazz) which detracted enough from the solemnity of the choral presentation to drive Professor Woodward from the stage and the choir had to finish their number unconducted.
The Finale was most fitting to the occasion. Professor Peter Schicklee, mentor, apologist, and promoter of P.D.Q. Bach, took his cue from Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and composed his own “Unbegun Symphony” consisting of movements III and IV. In proper P.D.Q. style Schicklee tastefully plagiarized a number of themes from various popular composers, dressed them up somewhat in a new garb and strung them together into a veritable musical potpourri. The net result was that you had heard it all before but not quite like that.
Professor Dalton directed the chamber orchestra, astutely divining Schicklees, and by extension, P.D.Q.’s original intent in this work thus doing it full justice. It so mesmerized the audience that they gave a long and loud standing ovation. Professor Dalton declined giving an encore stating they had exhausted their P.D.Q. repertoire.
The whole evening was absolutely delightful, and of all the concerts l have attended this certainly was one of them. – LARRY V. SHUMWAY