Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934) - Eight Songs for a Mad King (without subtitles)

PLEASE NOTE: This performance does not include subtitles - the same performance including subtitles is available on our site...

Filmed on 31st March 2012
at the Digital Performance Lab, the University of Salford, Media City UK.

with Kelvin Thomas, soloist

Conrad Marshall - flute
Dov Goldberg - clarinet
Richard Casey - piano
Tim Williams - percussion / cimbalom
Benedict Holland - violin
Jennifer Langridge - cello

Peter Maxwell Davies - Eight Songs for a Mad King

1. The Sentry (King Prussia's Minuet)
2. The Country Walk (La Promenade)
3. The Lady-in-Waiting (Miss Musgrave's Fancy)
4. To be Sung on the Water (The Waterman)
5. The Phantom Queen (He's ay a-kissing me)
6. The Counterfeit (Le Contrefaite)
7. Country Dance (Scotch Bonnett)
8. The Review (a Spanish March)

Long established as a classic of music-theatre, the work is an extravagant, disturbing and poignant portrayal of madness. The king is George III of England - or maybe another madman who believes himself to be that monarch - vocalizing weirdly as he bemoans his fate and tries to teach his instrumentalist-birds to sing. The string and woodwind players are the captives of his insanity, intended to play from within giant cages, while the percussionist is his keeper, holding him within the confines of a maddened musical sensibility. But all the musicians are essentially projections from within his own mind. The focus is always on him, and on his wild vocal performances, which include various kinds of Sprechgesang, chords and a range of over four octaves. The virtuosity of the instrumentalists is no less, nor that of the composer in playing spikily over a range of eighteenth-century references.

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