Home     Biography     Performances     Works     Listen & Look      Press      Surveys     Programme notes     Links

Gwyn Pritchard: Mercurius
chamber orchestra
 (1979 & 1989)

Written for inclusion in a concert that was also to include Birtwistle’s Tragoedia, Mercurius was originally for the same instrumentation: wind quintet, string quartet & harp, and in that version it was given it’s premiere in 1979 in the Purcell Room, London, conducted by Peter Wiegold. However in response to a request from the Bournemouth Sinfonietta for a piece for chamber orchestra for the 1989 International New Music Week in Southampton at which I was a featured composer, I made a number of changes; most significantly adding a doublebass part and adapting the piece where necessary for optional orchestral rather than solo strings. In fact this process of transformation predates even  the first version of the piece which was evolved out of a quartet for four flutes written a few years earlier; thus giving an extra significance to the title by virtue of the “mercurial” transformations which that flute material has subsequently undergone. The real significance of the title, however, is not so much a reference to Mercurius as messenger of the gods, as to the elusive, unstable, often volatile, “quicksilver” characteristics ascribed to him, and which similarly characterise the material of the piece. For although much of the music is not overtly “mercurial” in the sense of being borne along on winged feet, the music seldom settles down and is always restless beneath its surface, sometimes breaking out into explosive burst of sparkling material.

Return to Texts index