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Erik Satie: Mercure

  • for orchestra
  • 2 1 2 1 - 2 2 1 1 - perc(2), str
  • Duration: 15’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    percussion (2 players)
    violin I
    violin II
  • Composer: Erik Satie
  • Dedication: A Madame la Comtesse Etienne de Beaumont
  • Commission: Comtesse Etienne de Beaumont

Work introduction

Satie's Aventures des Mercures was commissioned by the Comte Etienne de Beaumont for a series of avant-garde theatrical performances called Les Soirées de Paris, which were produced at the Teatre de la Cigale in 1924. The designs for Mercures were by Picasso and the choreography by Massine.

The first performance was a disaster and ended in uproar. Surrealists in the audience – enthusiasts of Picasso's work – were contemptuous of Satie's music, and their anger at Picasso's co-operation with him was vociferous.

I have re-orchestrated Mercures for two reasons. Firstly, I have always felt that Satie's own orchestration has ironed out the individuality and the quirkiness which distinguish the music and I wanted to restore those qualities. My second reason is the simple one which Stravinsky gave when asked why he re-orchestrated other men's work: 'Because I love music'.

Harrison Birtwistle

Sample pages

World première

Théâtre de la Cigale, Paris (FR)
Main soloists:
Tänzer: Léonide Massine - Merkure, Vera Petrowa, Nicholas Lissanewitsch

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