Peter Maxwell Davies: Eight Songs for a Mad King

Peter Maxwell Davies: Eight Songs for a Mad King

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Release Date: 28 January 2022

In 2014, to celebrate the 80th Birthday of its Patron, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Manchester’s premier new music ensemble Psappha released a limited edition recording of Eight Songs for a Mad King on vinyl.

The recording was made in 2012 and was supervised by the composer, making this the first recording of the work to have had the direct involvement of 'Max' since the 1971 recording by his own ensemble, The Fires of London. Psappha performed Eight Songs for a Mad King more than 70 times and worked closely with the composer to fine-tune the performance of one of his most iconic works to be as close as possible to what he intended.

Originally premiered in 1969, this monodrama was composed by Maxwell Davies to a libretto by Randolph Stow based on writings by King George III of Britain, and is scored for solo baritone (Kelvin Thomas) and small ensemble. Based on melodies supposedly churned out by the King on his mechanical organ as he taught his pet bullfinches to sing, it is an intense theatrical depiction of descent into delirium.

After the initial limited vinyl release of only 500 copies, Eight Songs for a Mad King is being reissued as part of Psappha's new partnership with the label NMC Recordings, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the ensemble. The reissue will be repressed on vinyl, and will also be available for digital download.

Kelvin Thomas baritone 
Conrad Marshall flute 
Dov Goldberg clarinet 
Richard Casey piano 
Tim Williams percussion
Bennedict Holland violin 
Jennifer Langridge cello 



"...the challenging role of George, or perhaps a deluded individual who thinks he is the king, is realised with passion and vigour by Welsh baritone Kelvin Thomas." The Wire

Eight Songs is brutal, strange, and whimsical. It’s also got an essential Psapphic quality: a whites-of-the-eyes brightness that makes even the darkest surfaces gleam a little." VAN Magazine

Release Date: 28 January 2022
Cat No: PSA1007