UMZE Chamber Ensemble
UMZE will perform Peter Maxwell Davies' "Eight Songs for a Mad King" and George Benjamin's "Into the Little Hill" on this winter evening in Budapest.
Peter Maxwell Davies' semi‐opera written in 1969 features just one singer, a piano, a violin, a cello, a flute, a clarinet and percussion. The instruments will describe real‐life locations and events, such as the River Thames, the chatter of the king and a sentry. The inspiration for the piece was provided by eight poems of Randolph Stow telling the story of the “mad” king George III, who reputedly taught the birds to sing. The musical adaptation is one of the most distinctive and at the same time disturbing works of the 20th century. In keeping with the composer's eccentric bent, Handel's Messiah and the foxtrot appear side by side, while the singer must cover more than four octaves, as well as speaking and producing all manner of sounds and effects.
A generation younger than Davies, George Benjamin – whose earlier work, At First Light, was performed at the Palace of Arts by the London Sinfonietta in January – wrote the chamber opera Into the Little Hill to a libretto by Martin Crimp. Premièred in 2006, it is also scored for just two singers, who recount the familiar tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin in turns as actors and as narrators. The clear instrumentation, which includes a basset horn and cimbalom, brings out the sharp voice parts to even more spine‐chilling effect. Despite its unsettling undertones, this is regarded as Benjamin's most enchanting and beautiful work.