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P.D.Q. Bach in Houston - We Have a Problem!
PDQ Bach in Houston - We Have a Problem
Actor: P.D.Q. Bach
Director: Alan Foster
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2006     1hr 42min

Three?two?one?Laugh-off! Musical mayhem blasts into orbit as Professor Peter Schickele and OrchestraX celebrate the music of composer P.D.Q. Bach, whose oeuvre Schickele "discovered" and unleashed on the world 40 years ago...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: P.D.Q. Bach
Director: Alan Foster
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Classical
Studio: Acorn Media
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/24/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 42min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The Bach family wishes to deny any relationship with this pe
R. C. Walker | Encinitas CA, United States | 10/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When J.S. Bach's youngest son, P.D.Q., died in 1807, he left an extensive legacy of some of the world's least worthy musical compositions. For generations these remained secreted in monasteries, attics, coffee makers, land fills, and similar locations. Eventually, Peter Schickele, Professor o Musical Pathology at the USND at Hoople, began to uncover the missing mss. The first of these, the as-yet unrecorded "Sanka Cantata", was being used as coffee filters.

Having seen several of Bach's compositions, Prof. Schickele decided to have them performed in public anyway. This serious lapse of judgement was followed by another, and the first recording appeared in 1965. One of the pieces on that first disc, the cantata "Iphegenia in Brooklyn", appears on this DVD. Personally, I'd have included the "Concerto for Horn and Hardart" instead. From the 2nd disc of 1966 we get the oratorio, "The Seasonings" ... omitting, alas, the "Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle, and Baloons". Audiences continued to encourage these outrages against music by buying tickets and recordings. It's also encouraging to see that, after all these years, Prof. Schickele is still a dab hand at getting from the balcony to the stage by means of a rope.

We should note that PDQ's name seems to consist of initials standing for nothing. Traditionally, members of the Bach dynasty as known by their initials ... JS for Johann Sebastian, CPE for Carl Philip Emmanuel, and so on. Apparently by the time of PDQ's birth the family had run out of names.

It's wonderful to see a PDQ Bach concert. The recordings are treasures, but there's often a good bit of stage business which we miss. This particular concert, alas, doesn't include any of Bach's pieces featuring the left-handed sewer flute, so we don't get to see this unique instrument played. But we do get treated to the tromboon and the slide windbreaker.

There are 7 pieces of the program ... 2 of them thankfully not by Bach. The concert opens with the Overture, "Desecration of the House". Without spoiling the delights of this number, we can only observe that the performance is fitting to the material.

This is followed by the "Schleptet in E-Flat". Luckily the bassoon player wasn't seriously injured during the 1st movement (Allegro Boffo). The clarity of having only 7 instruments serves to lay bare PDQ's incompetence in this, one of his finest pieces. Be sure to listen for the vocalizations of the players during the last movement (Presto Hey Nonny Nonnio).

Pretty much the highlight of the concert's first half is "Iphigenia in Brooklyn". Written for bargain counter tenor, wine bottle, trumpet, and double reeds, this piece has an other-worldly quality. Or something. Yes, and a sense of sadness, too. John Ferrante used to do the last section (Running Knows) with a handkerchief, which is sadly omitted here.
PDQ very cleverly wrote the piece so that the wine battle (Muscatel, in this case) needed to produce a lower note in each successive section. Unfortunately, tuning his instrument ultimately worked to disadvantage of the player (Prof. Schickele).

The first piece not by Bach is by Schickele. This is his "Unbegun Symphony" (it has only the last 2 movements). Prof. Schickele readily admits that, under PDQ's influence, he's written a piece without an original note in it. This is hardly so shameful as he seems to suggest. This is an old and venerable form, the Quodlibet ... known to American bands as the "Switch". John Philip Sousa wrote a number of these. The idea is to write a piece that does nothing but quote other composers. Schickele does this superbly.

This is followed by a section from the "Musical Sacrifice", the Fuga Meshuga for flute, oboe, violin, and bassoon. The thing to watch for here (aside from the ineptness of the fugal writing) is Bach's unusual way of showing the viewer who's currently playing the main theme.

The concert ends with the evening's major work, the Grand Oratorio "The Seasonings". This features a wide range of odd instruments that PDQ Bach seemed to enjoy writing for: kazoos, accordion (continuo), slide whistles, shower hose (in D), tromboon, windbreaker, slide windbreaker fog horn. It's really splendid to see how these instruments relate to the piece as it's performed. The text consists of observations - many of them homiletic - regarding spices - "Tarragon of virtue is full" (first section), "To curry favor, favor curry" (last section). Naturally, as we might expect, as weak and feeble as the text is, Bach's music isn't really up to it - still, the last section does reach a very effective climax - some bars too early.

The entire concert, stage business included, lasts a very respectable hour and 42 minutes. It is augmented by some excellent extra features - including a thematic analysis of the "Unbegun Symphony", some of Bach's short vocal pieces, and an informative interview with Prof. Schickele.

On the whole, the photography on the DVD is fine and the sound is excellent. The musicians are obviously first-rate. Blurbs on the DVD go to an effort to suggest this is a pick-up orchestra, but my guess is that they are volunteers from the estimable orchestra of the Houston Grand Opera. Still, good as this disc is, it makes one wish that video recordings had been made of those ancient PDQ Bach concerts of the 1960s. (And, frankly, one longs for Schickele's actual and truly wonderful compositions - such as his quartets - to have been included rather than his spoofy non-PDQ items. As it is, I can only recommend his CDs in the strongest possible terms.)"
Houston, we DO have a problem
Lynn S. Hendricks | Carson City, NV USA | 01/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This concert video is a clear demonstration of the pitfalls of too-familiar material. While Peter Schickele's PDQ Bach material is as hysterical, intelligent, and quirky as ever, when the audience knows every joke before it happens, they just don't react with anything like the hysteria the music deserves. The result is a wan reception that seems to leave the orchestra, the soloists, and Professor Schickele confused, resentful, or just plain tired. It's almost painful to watch. The music is just as funny as it ever was -- but when the audience merely murmurs its appreciation and claps politely, it's hard to feel enthusiastic.

If you've never heard PDQ Bach before, bypass this one and get one of the earlier recordings in which the audience screams, stomps, and falls out of their seats. If you're familiar with him and want to see a full performance, get the "Abduction of Figaro" tape or DVD. I guarantee you a better time."
Why are You Waiting? Buy it!!
Kristan O. Overstreet | Livingston, TX United States | 11/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you're a PDQ Back fan, this is a must buy.

If you've never heard of PDQ Bach, this is STILL a must buy- a selection of the twenty-first of J. S. Bach's twenty children's most typical works, ranging from the "Fuga Meshuga" for quartet from "The Musical Sacrifice" up to the full orchestra, choir, and devious instruments of the grand orotario "The Seasonings."

If you're a music buff, this is even more of a must buy- have fun spotting the things PDQ and his resurrector Prof. Peter Shickele stole from for their works, including Shickele's own "Unbegun Symphony."

Add to this some concert hijinks which just can't be conveyed on album, and you have something without which no masochistic audiophile's collection is truly complete.

My only regret is that all the music on this concert is already available on various albums (except for the first movement of "Iphegenia in Brooklyn"). One could only wish for an original PDQ Bach "discovery" to have been unveiled for this concert. Still, despite this, it's still- I must say it again- a must buy.

(By the way, be sure to check out the special features- not all the music is in the main concert video!)"
Recordings are funnier
MLT | Minneapolis | 01/16/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The P.D.Q. Bach franchise has had some hilarious recordings. Because of this it would seem it would be even funnier to see them performed. The choir is in robes, but of terry cloth not polyester. It's fun to see the wacky instruments and shenanigans happening in 'concert' with the music.

But, Schickele has been presenting these concerts for over 40 years - and it shows. The pacing is slow and the humor lacks energy. He attempts to take a rope down to the concert stage but ends up falling in a pile. This would be funny if he were a fit, young Tim Conway. But he's not - instead I was concerned he might have broken a hip. Other gags are momentarily funny but not for the entire time they take to run their course.

It's a nice trip down memory lane but probably more worth a rental."