Every classical piano student needs a break from the serious stuff now and then. What better way to take one than by turning to the music of P.D.Q. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s long-forgotten 21st child (of his 20 children).

Born in 1807 and living until 1742, P.D.Q. Bach “possessed the originality of Johann Christian Bach, the arrogance of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and the obscurity of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach,” according to the musical scholar Peter Schickele, who “discovered” P.D.Q.

P.D.Q. Bach was a forward-thinking composer who experimented with highly-innovative notation:

Occasionally he ran short of music paper:

Pianists who desire to play the music of P.D.Q. Bach will be pleased to know about the Notebook for Betty-Sue Bach, which was undoubtedly inspired by his father’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. The Betty-Sue Notebook includes a number of P.D.Q.’s small masterpieces including the Two-Part Contraption and Three-Part Contraption (not to be confused with his father’s Two-Part and Three-Part Inventions).

The charming little pieces in the Notebook for Betty-Sue Bach are especially appropriate for intermediate pianists. Some of them would make a dynamite recital encore, such as the cruel piece in which the pianist must continue playing to the edge of the keyboard until he or she falls off the bench.

Pianists will have lots of fun with the music of P.D.Q. Bach, but will do so at their own risk.

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