Peter Schickele, the active composer--as opposed to Peter Schickele, the virtually retired discoverer and advocate of one P.D.Q. Bach--has a loyal following in Southern California. Witness the sizable audience that crowded into the Shatto Chapel at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on Monday night.
In that acoustically forgiving room, the Armadillo Quartet--violins Barry Socher and Steven Scharf; violist Raymond Tischer; cellist Armen Ksajikian--produced its fifth annual concert of music by Schickele, a perhaps overgenerous sampling that, with the composer's fascinating spoken annotations, ran on until close to 10:30 p.m. Still, it would have been hard to choose something to leave out.
Certainly not Schickele's recent transcription of Schutz's "Fili Mi Absalon," for string quartet and three added cellos, which the ensemble--with extra cellists Matt Cooker, Roger Lebow and Larry Corbett--managed to make both texturally transparent and musically weighty, but without heaviness (Schutz lite?).
Nor the quartet's playing of Socher's arrangement of Schickele's piano suite, "Epitaphs," respectful but smiling hommages to Lassus, Praetorius, D. Scarlatti, Chopin and Stravinsky.
Also not to be deleted: a brand-new suite for four cellos, "Queen Anne's Lace," in its West Coast premiere. This is, like much of Schickele's music, charming, inventive and tart. Led by Ksajikian, the quartet of cellists made a mighty resonance in the chapel at the start of the program.
The unpretentious Schickele described the origins of another essential piece, his 1985 Trio for two violins and viola: "I was sitting on a bus (in New York City), and, while passing Carnegie Hall, I saw an announcement for a performance of the Dvorak Terzetto."
With the idea for a trio planted, a week later, in England, he began to write what turned out to be an elegant walking piece that, characteristically, speaks with a natural, eloquently jazzy accent.