Peter Schickele’s “Last Tango in Bayreuth”: An Awful Lot of Bassoons

Last Wednesday, May 22, marked the 211th anniversary of Wagner’s birth. During his lifetime, the German Romanticist became a cult-like figure, revealing magical new orchestral colors and pushing tonality and formal scale to their ecstatic limits. In contrast with Brahms the traditionalist, Wagner appeared to offer a radical new vision. Looking back on Wagner’s work, Claude Debussy more accurately described it as “a beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn.”

The late American composer and humorist, Peter Schickele (a.k.a. “PDQ Bach”), paid homage to Wagner with his Last Tango in Bayreuth, written for bassoon quartet. Bayreuth is the Bavarian town where Wagner settled, and where he built an opera house specifically suited to the presentation of his works. Here, musical fragments from Tristan und Isolde and Lohengrin are played with deadpan wit by an instrument that has long been known as the clown of the orchestra. Schickele’s Last Tango relishes the dissonance and open-ended, resolution-defying release of the iconic “Tristan chord,” which is repeated throughout the piece.

This recording, featuring the Tennessee Bassoon Quartet, is the closing excerpt from Schickele’s 1992 album, Music for an Awful Lot of Winds & Percussion:


  • Schickele: Last Tango in Bayreuth, Tennessee Bassoon Quartet Amazon

Featured Image: photograph by Peter Schaaf

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Peter Schickele’s “Last Tango in Bayreuth”: An Awful Lot of Bassoons”

Leave a Comment