for Clarinet and Piano
approx. duration: 15'
As if imbued with a soul of mercury, this virtuosic work moves rapidly and capriciously between two extremes: a lightning-fast and mischevious space, and a far more lyrical and expressive one. The piece shares some resemblance to a sonata in its use of two contrasting ideas, but it diverges significantly in their treatment. After a brief introduction, the first idea becomes highly unstable - marked by wide leaps, quicksilver changes in dynamics, and a very dry sound world. It is contrasted by a mystical and expressive tune, closely spaced, that is awash in resonance. The ensuing developments - which treat the themes separately - transform each theme into the other, climaxing at a cadenza which puts both ideas together for the first time.
But, like two decrepit salmon - who spend their lives seeking the unique space where they can form a brief but extraordinarily sweet union - the two themes, exhausted by the journey, die together in a bittersweet coda.
Mercury Soul (a world premiere) pushed Fiterstein's instrument to its limits. Fiterstein roamed through the music's elusive turns of high drama. The Bates took advantage of the new crop of sonic effects composers are assigning to traditional instruments in the wake of computer-produced sound. —Cecelia Porter, March 13, 2002 (Washington Post)
The most adventurous work was Mason Bates’s Mercury Soul, performed by Todd Palmer, the clarinetist, and Steven Beck, the pianist. The score, rambling and changeable — mercurial, you might say — covers vast ground, from its portentous opening to its stretches of virtuosic, staccato playing on the clarinet. At times the piano offers a torrent of quickly repeating notes so captivating that you almost miss the meditative clarinet line that sails above it. And in the work’s final pages, the clarinetist plays into the piano, setting its strings vibrating gently and creating an ethereal resonance. —Allan Kozin (NYTimes)