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Posted January 5, 2012
Peter Schickele, better known to many for his satirical character PDQ Bach, is also an interesting composer. On this recording, the Blair Woodwind Quintet chose him to compose a new work as part of the Blair Commissioning Project, and the five movement work “A Year In The Catskills” is the result. The first movement (“Spring: Fantasy”) is rather pastoral and evocative of an early morning in the mountains. Schickele’s backgrouns as a bassoonist makes him a solid choice for a work for this ensemble, as he understands the need to blend the various instruments while allowing each to play off of the other. This first movement sets the positive tone for the rest of the piece. The second movement (“Summer: Imitations”) is essentially a series of canons that provide a pleasant imitative texture. The third movement (“Fall: Variations”) is based on a bass line from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, while the fourth movement provides an opportunity for the Oboe and Clarinet to shine. The last movement (“Finale: Fast Driving”) is a rather jazzy affair that brings the piece to a light-hearted close.
About the other works on the recording: “Gardens” has a rather somber and unusual feel, particularly given the fact that it is for oboe and piano; “What Did You Do Today At Jeffrey’s House?” has a jazzy somewhat Vince Guaraldi-like feel (with some boogie-woogie in the 3rd movement!), and is intended to be a series of memory pieces from the composer’s experience with a childhood friend; “Dream Dances” contrasts various Baroque dance melodies with more modern dances; and finally, “Diversions” is evocative of some of the daily diversions in our lives today, namely “Bath”, “Billiards”, and “Bar” – the names of each of the three movements.
The liner notes are in extremely small print, but provide some decent background on the various pieces, the composer, and the performers. Overall, this is a pleasing disc and I’m pleased to have it in my collection..