Collection: Mad Songs

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Blow & Finger,Eccles,Purcell
WORKS: Songs by Purcell, Eccles, Blow & Finger
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (sop), David Roblou (hpscd/organ), Mark Levy (bass viol), Anthony Pleeth (vlc), Paula Chateauneuf (archlute/gtr), Tom Finucane (archlute)


This disc reflects imagination and a knowledge of the repertory, and if the state of madness has been represented in this way before (maybe it has), the quality of the performances and music make it very attractive. The paradox is, of course, that composers portray disordered minds prettily, just as they give operatic villains fine tunes to sing. Catherine Bott offers both tonal beauty and an imaginative range of delivery (including speech in the second Eccles song), so that each song displays its own world.

The composers (including two anonymous ones) are all Baroque British, but there’s ample variety here and no less imagination in the diverse accompaniments provided by David Roblou and his colleagues. Purcell’s ‘Bess of Bedlam’ is among the longer pieces at around four minutes, a dramatic scena with Bott’s words excitingly characterised, and what sounds like a touch of an American accent (eg a short vowel in ‘dance’) is doubtless a scholarly hint at period English pronunciation. In any case, it is not intrusive.


She can also hint by accent and timbre at belonging to this or that social class, according to the needs of the text. With so much that is pleasing, it’s hard to single out specific songs, but the seven by John Eccles show what a splendid composer he was. Indeed, the whole disc offers fine singing and style, while the recording has a fine balance and natural fullness. The booklet is informative and provides texts. Sadly, the producer, Peter Wadland, has died since making this recording, which is dedicated to his memory. Christopher Headington