||From the Vault...
"The Short-Tempered Clavier"
© Telarc Records
Year of Release: 1995
Opening And Introduction
I. C Major
II. C Minor
III. C-Sharp Minor
IV. D Major
V. D Minor
VI. E-Flat Major
VII. F Major
VIII. G Minor
IX. G Major
X. A Major
XI. A Minor
XII. B-Flat Major
I. Tocata Et Fuga Obnoxia
II. Chorale Prelude
(Ave Maria Et
III. Fantasia Sopra
IV. Lullaby And
I. Spiel Vorspiel
II. Entrada Grande
The Russian Bear
IV. Toccata Ecdysiastica
I. Chorale: Orally
II. Chorale Prelude On An
American Hymn For
The Last Sunday
Before The Fourth
Day Of The Seventh
New Year's Eve
III. Chorale Variations On
In Der Nacht
So Hell Der Petrus I
P.D.Q. Bach related sites:
"The Short-Tempered Clavier"
Professor Peter Schickele is the Dr. Demento of Classical Music. As mentioned from previous PDQ Bach reviews
on this site, when I first purchased PDQ Bach music from the local record store, the employee there warned me that
this was no ordinary source of Classical Music.
As my knowledge and interest of PDQ Bach's music increased, it was obvious to acquire more of the PDQ Bach
catalog. With this week's album review, 1995's The Short-Tempered Clavier, there is no doubt that the
"normal" Classical Music fan will enjoy the music contained here. Yet, throughout the album (as many others), you
can easily hear the humor in the music, yet the orchestrations are truly fantastic, comparing to the "normal"
classical pieces you would hear.
There are 3 preludes (prelude being defined from the liner notes from the album: "It is obviously a piece that
goes in front of another piece.") The first, is the main title of this album, as it has 12 pieces, and are titled in
the letter majors and minors of the musical notes - C major, C minor, C-sharp minor, D major, etc. (Most standard
classical pieces are also titled in this way.) The 13 pieces are all instrumental, with the use of the Hamburg
Stairway D piano, recorded in Mechanics Hall in Worchester, Massachusetts, February 22, 1995. The piano preparation
was by Barbara Pease Renner. Christopher O'Riley, pianist. The humor in various pieces here are easily heard, using
such "pieces" as "Chopsticks," "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and the intro to
the Big Ben clock, to name a few.
The second prelude is entitled "Little Pickle Book," and it has only 4 pieces. The first piece is based on Johann
Sabastian Bach's classic "Toccata et Fuge in D Minor," retitled as "Toccata et Fuge Obnoxia." Humorously done
as expected. The second piece is "Chorale Prelude (Ave Maria et Agnus Dei)." I'm not really familiar with
the track Agnus Dei, yet I've seen it referenced from the German band Laibach, and one of the WSVNRadio Hall of Fame
artists, Gerald Krampl. He recorded many album projects as the name "Agnus Dei." The third piece has an almost
childlike quality, "Fantasia sopra [Fraulein Maria Mack]." The final piece is "Lullaby And Goodnight,"
as it easily references to the children's song, yet heard in its own humorous and eerie atmosphere. The "Little
Pickle Book" was recorded on the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ in the Imperial Spud Theatre, in Hoople, North
Dakota, on April 11, 1995, with additional recording at Commercial Recording Studio, Studio 1, in Cleveland, Ohio,
on May 1, 1995. Dennis James, theater organist.
The third prelude is entitled Sonata Da Circo (Circus Sonata), as it has 4 pieces. Circus music, Calliope
music. The four pieces are "Spiel Vorspiel," " Entrada Grande," "Smokski The Russian Bear," and "Toccata
Ecdysiastica." There is also another piece, "Calliope Frustration." Now, from listening to these five
pieces, I just find THIS kind of Calliope music from this album to be extremely weird, and having disturbing images
of bad clowns. The bad movie Killer Klowns From Outer Space" also comes to mind. Again, this is weird and
disturbing music. Sonata Da Circo (Circus Sonata) was recorded on a Morecraft Steam Calliope at the
International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, Indiana, on May 30, 1995. David Robinson & Prof. Schickele, steam calliope
The last prelude is entitled Three Chorale-Based Piecelets. It has 3 pieces. The first, "Chorale:
Orally", has an eerie depressing church music sound, The second, (you'll love its title), "Chorale Prelude on
an American for the Last Sunday Before the Fourth Day of the Seventh Month After New Year'e Eve." This song is
really PDQ Bach's version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy." The last piece is considered the best of the three:
"Choral Variations on [In der Nacht so Hell, der Petrus ist mein Freund." This piece was recorded next to the
feediots at King Congregational Church in Fayray, North Dakota, May 1, 1995. Prof. Schickele, organist.
Liner Notes from each Prelude (by Professor Peter Schickele):
The Short-Tempered Clavier turned out to be as pivotal to P.D.Q. Bach's oeurve as The Well-Tempered
Clavier was to his father's (Johann Sebastian Bach). That is, they're both humungous pieces that seem to sum up almost
everything the composers had learned about the art of, in J.S. Bach's case, trying to cash in on his father's most famous
The creative life of "The Tosspot of Wein-am-Rhein" (as he probably would have been called if that weren't such
a clumsy epithet) has been divided into three periods: The Initial Plunge, The Soused Period, and Contrition; internal
evidence suggests that the Little Pickle Book hails from the final period, looking back as it does -- stylistically
speaking, that is -- to the music of the composer's father and his (ie: the composer's father's) contemporaries, yet
lacking, as it also does, any of the presciently reckless harmonies and one-leg-shorter-than-the-other rhythms that
give his (ie: the composer's) early works such a late feeling.
The two principal forms of chamber music in the Baroque era were the sonata da chiesa (church sonata)
and the sonata da camera (photographic sonata); P.D.Q. Bach's Sonata Da Circo is, as far as this
particular editor knows, the only example of a circus sonata written during the Baroque, or, for that matter, any
other, either, when you come right down to it, era.
P.D.Q. Bach spent his Soused Period in Wein-am-Rhein, which, chorally-wise speaking, was a one-man town. If you
wanted choral singers or a choral director, you talked. If you knew that was good for you, with the only official
choral contractor in the area, Don "Chroal" Leone. He doesn't have anything to do with the Three Chorale-Based
Piecelets that ends this album, but I wanted to mention him anyway; his descendants are still around, and just as
powerful as ever.
As mentioned in other reviews for this album, the main title of this album's prelude is the best [3 stars]. The
remaining preludes were probably fillers to complete the album. But the Sonata Da Circo (Circus Sonata) virtually
killed the album for me, with its eerieness of calliope music. For the serious Classical fan, I'm sure they probably
hate P.D.Q. Bach, for distinguishing its so-called humor, easily fitting the Dr. Demento format, and yes, some of the
pieces of P.D.Q. Bach's music could be classified as "demented humor." But for those who can easily put this all aside,
P.D.Q. Bach's "music" is considered as novelty and comedy. Judging on the music from the main title track's prelude, it
is oustanding to even the best classical works. Anyone who is professionally trained to play this kind of Classical Music,
whether humorously or serious, is far and beyond a "clavier genius."
By the way, the defnition of clavier is: "The keyboard of a music instrument."
© WSVNRadio.net. All rights reserved.
Review or any portion may not be reproduced
without written permission. Cover art is the
intellectual property of
and is used for reference purposes only.