Dutch composer Robert Zuidam believes bad poetry may be a better spur to musical creativity than great verse. And when it comes to the monumentally bad poetry of William McGonagall, Zuidam clearly knows what he’s taking on, brilliantly describing how “a limp sense of meter wanders, seemingly clueless, through an unhinged linguistic landscape”.
Which makes the success of his setting of McGonagall’s two signature works, without stooping to ridicule beyond a subtly bathetic momentum of marimba, all the more impressive. The coloratura soprano Katrien Baerts conveys the hysterical jubilation with which the poet first acclaims the new Tay Bridge, then laments its collapse.
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