Eight Songs for a Mad King
Eight Songs for a Mad King is a monodrama by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with a libretto by Randolph Stow, based on words of George III. The work was written for the South-African actor Roy Hart and the composer's ensemble, the Pierrot Players. It was premiered on 22 April 1969.
|Eight Songs for a Mad King|
|Monodrama by Peter Maxwell Davies|
Leigh Melrose performing the work at the Nordland Music Festival in Bodø, 2014
|Based on||words by George III|
22 April 1969
- flute (doubling piccolo)
- percussion (1 player): railway whistle, snare drum, 2 suspended cymbals, foot cymbal, 2 wood blocks, bass drum, chains, ratchet, tom-toms, tamtam, tambourine, rototoms, toy bird-calls, 2 temple blocks, wind chimes, crotales, sleigh bells, glockenspiel, steel bars, crow, didgeridoo
- piano (doubling harpsichord and dulcimer)
- The Sentry (King Prussia's Minuet)
- The Country Walk (La Promenade)
- The Lady-In-Waiting (Miss Musgrave's Fancy)
- To Be Sung on the Water (The Waterman)
- The Phantom Queen (He's Ay A-Kissing Me)
- The Counterfeit (Le Conterfaite)
- Country Dance (Scotch Bonnett)
- The Review (A Spanish March)
The action unfolds as a soliloquy by the king, the players being placed on stage (ideally) in large birdcages, and climaxes in his snatching and smashing the violin.
The score is published by Boosey & Hawkes, and its cover shows a famous excerpt in which the staves are arranged like the bars of a birdcage.
Besides Hart, exponents of this work have included William Pearson, Michael Rippon, Thomas Meglioranza, Julius Eastman and Vincent Ranallo. The Swedish baritone Olle Persson performed the work in Stockholm in the 1990s. The British baritone Richard Suart has performed the piece in Gelsenkirchen‚ Milan‚ Helsinki‚ Strasbourg‚ Stavanger and Paris; in 1987 The Musical Times described Suart's take as "compelling from start to finish". Welsh baritone Kelvin Thomas sang the role at Munich's Kammerspiele Schauspielhaus in 2011, and in a production by Music Theatre Wales in 2013.
- Review of a recording
- Roy Hart homepage
- Peter Maxwell Davies (born 1934) - Eight Songs for a Mad King (with subtitles) on YouTube. A complete performance in 2012 by Kelvin Thomas and the Psappha Ensemble, supervised by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, uploaded by the Psappha Ensemble.