Reason in Madness (SACD)

Current Stock:
Carolyn Sampson, Joseph Middleton

Throughout history men have feared madwomen, burning them as witches, confining them in asylums and subjecting them to psychoanalysis – yet, they have also been fascinated, unable to resist fantasizing about them. For their new disc, Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton have created a programme that explores the responses of a variety of composers to women whose stories have left them vulnerable and exposed. As a motto they have chosen an aphorism by Nietzsche: ‘There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.’

Brahms’ Ophelia Songs, composed for a stage production of Hamlet, appear next to those by Richard Strauss and Chausson, while Ophelia's death is described by both Schumann (in Herzeleid) and SaintSaëns. Goethe’s mysterious and traumatized Mignon appears in settings by Hugo Wolf as well as Duparc, while his ill-used Gretchen grieves by her spinning-wheel in Schubert's matchless setting. Sadness and madness tip into witchery and unbridled eroticism with Pierre Louÿs's poems about Bilitis, set by Kœchlin and Debussy. Sampson and Middleton end their recital as it began, with a suicide by drowning: in Poulenc’s monologue La Dame de Monte-Carlo, the elderly female protagonist has been unlucky at the gambling tables and decides to throw herself into the sea.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


  1. Brahms Ophelia-Lied Nr. 4
  2. Schubert Gretchen am Spinnrade
  3. Schumann Herzeleid
  4. Brahms Mädchenlied
  5. Strauss 3 Lieder der Ophelia
  6. Schumann Die Spinnerin
  7. Koechlin Hymne à Astarté
  8. Saint-Saëns La mort d’Ophélie
  9. Debussy Chansons de Bilitis
  10. Chausson Chanson d’Ophélie
  11. Koechlin Épitaphe de Bilitis
  12. Brahms 5 Ophelia-Lieder
  13. Duparc Romance de Mignon
  14. Duparc Au pays où se fait la guerre
  15. Wolf Mignon-Lieder
  16. Poulenc La Dame de Monte-Carlo


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Described as “an exploration in song of themes of love and madness:, Carolyn Sampson’s new recital with pianist Joseph Middleton covers a remarkable amount of ground, from the mesmeric melancholy of Schubert’s Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, to the rich harmonies of Charles Kœchlin. In between are a cross-section of the finest song-writers of the last 200 years, including a couple with first-hand experience of mental imbalance, Schumann and Wolf. Themed recitals are common these days, but rarely are they quite this interesting or musically varied, not to mention exquisitely sung.

- Chris Dench, The Classical Music Collector