Composer, musician, author, satirist—Peter Schickele is internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. His works, now well in excess of 100 for symphony orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, voice, movies and television, have given him “a leading role in the ever-more-prominent school of American composers who unselfconsciously blend all levels of American music.” (John Rockwell, The New York Times)
His commissions are numerous and varied, ranging from works for the National Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, The Minnesota Opera, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The Audubon and Lark String Quartets, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, and many other such organizations to compositions for distinguished instrumentalists and singers. . His recent premieres include Lincoln at Ease, for narrator and orchestra, commissioned and premiered by the Louisville Orchestra under Jorge Mester; A Year in the Catskills for woodwind quintet, commissioned, premiered and recorded by the Blair Woodwind Quintet; Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, with Danielle Farina and the Pasadena Symphony under Jorge Mester; Music for Orcas Island, for the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival; Symphony No. 2 “The Sweet Season,” premiered by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling; Concerto for Cello and Orchestra “In Memoriam F.D.R.;” performed by Paul Tobias with the Pasadena Symphony under Jorge Mester; New Century Suite, a concerto for saxophone quartet and orchestra, commissioned by the New Century Saxophone Quartet and premiered by them with the North Carolina Symphony; New Goldberg Variations for cello and piano, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax;Symphony No. 1 “Songlines,” premiered by the National Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, and since performed across the country by orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra; Blue Set No. 1, a jazz string quartet commissioned by the Greene Quartet and recorded on the Virgin label, among others. The Armadillo String Quartet has presented annual concerts of Mr. Schickele’s chamber music in Los Angeles since 1991.
Among the recordings recently released are Schickele’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, featuring Robert Spring with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus on Summit Records; the Grammy Award-winning Hornsmoke, featuring the title piece as well as Brass Calendar and other works for brass quintet, performed by the Chestnut Brass Company on Newport Classics; Schickele on a Lark, including the Quintet No. 2 for Piano and Strings, String Quartet No. 2 “In Memoriam” and the Sextet for Strings, with the Lark Quartet on Arabesque; The Emperor’s New Clothes, for narrator and chamber ensemble, commissioned and performed by An die Musik on Newport Classic; and another album of chamber music for strings, including String Quartet No. 1 “American Dreams,”the Quintet No. 1 for Piano and Strings, and String Quartet No. 5 “A Year in the Country,” with the Audubon Quartet on Centaur. Other compositions may be heard on RCA Red Seal, Vanguard, Crystal, CRI, D’Note, Carlton, Koch International and MusicMasters.
Peter Schickele arranged one of the musical segments for the Disney animated feature film, Fantasia 2000. He also created the musical score for the film version of Maurice Sendak’s children’s classicWhere the Wild Things Are, issued on videocassette (Weston Woods) and DVD (Scholastic) along with another Sendak classic In the Night Kitchen, which Mr. Schickele narrates. For many years he did a weekly, syndicated radio program, Schickele Mix, which was heard nationwide over Public Radio International and which won ASCAP’s prestigious Deems Taylor Award.
In 1993 Telarc released a recording of Prokofiev’s Sneaky Pete (a.k.a. Peter) and the Wolf and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with new texts authored and narrated by Peter Schickele, accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Yoel Levi. Mr. Schickele gave the New York premiere of Sneaky Pete and the Wolf at Carnegie Hall as part of the 1993 Toyota Comedy Festival and has performed the Saint-Saëns work with major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic at its gala New Year’s Eve concert in 1991. His chamber programs, P.D.Q. Bach and Peter Schickele: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour and The What’s Your Sign Tour, have received wide acclaim. He has also toured with a program of original cabaret songs, singing from the piano with the harmonizing assistance of David Düsing.
Peter Schickele was born on July 17, 1935, in Ames, Iowa, and brought up in Washington, D.C. and Fargo, North Dakota, where he studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He graduated from Swarthmore in 1957, having had the distinction of being the only music major (as he had been, earlier, the only bassoonist in Fargo). By that time he had already composed and conducted four orchestral works, a great deal of chamber music and a number of songs. He subsequently studied composition with Roy Harris and Darius Milhaud, and with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma at The Juilliard School of Music. He composed music for high schools in Los Angeles under a Ford Foundation grant before returning to teach at Juilliard in 1961. In 1965 he gave up teaching to become the freelance composer/performer he has been ever since.
In the course of his career Schickele has also created music for four feature films, among them the prize-winning Silent Running, as well as for documentaries, television commercials, several Sesame Streetsegments and an underground movie that he has never seen in its finished state. He was also one of the composer/lyricists for Oh! Calcutta!, and has arranged for Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other folk singers.
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