Peter Schickele, the prolific American composer, educator and humourist behind the fictional musical prodigy P.D.Q. Bach has died at his home in upstate New York. He was 88.

Peter Schickele, 1935-2024

Over more than five decades, Schickele wrote more than 100 symphonic, choral, solo instrumental and chamber works mostly in the guise of his musical alter ego, P.D.Q. Bach, the “last and least” of Johann Sebastian Bach’s many children.

In works such as The Short-Tempered Clavier and The Musical Sacrifice, Schickele gleefully celebrated and mocked the art form he deeply respected and understood. His pastiches often featured unconventional instruments (he was the inventor of the tromboon, a mix between a trombone and bassoon), unexpected twists, and musical inside jokes that delighted casual listeners and seasoned musicians.

Sometimes arriving on stage via a rope or chased by a gorilla, Schickele performed as P.D.Q. Bach for 50 years, from 1965 to 2015, when he retired from public performance.

The serious side of Schickele

Beyond his comedic endeavours, Schickele was a prolific composer in his own right. His Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra earned him the Pulitzer Prize in...