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Quicksilver: concerto for alto saxophone and wind ensemble

Alto saxophone soloist, 5 Fl (5th on Picc), 2 Ob, EH, 2 Bn, CBn or Contrabass Cl, 5 Cl, 1 B. Cl, SATB Sax, 4 Hn, 2 Tpt, 2 Tenor Tbn, Bass Tbn, 1-2 Euph, 1-2 Tba, Timp, 4 Perc, Pno (with optional Celesta), DB

I. Antics of a Newborn God
II. Guiding Souls to the Underworld
III. Messenger of Olympus

Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, saxophone, and the University of Massachusetts Wind Ensemble; Matthew Westgate, conductor

AUDIO (piano reduction)
Please note that the piano reduction is suitable for performance in recitals and concerts.
Mvmt. 1:
Mvmt. 2:
Mvmt. 3:
Idit Shner, saxophone, and EunHye Choi, piano



Theodore Presser Company
Click here to visit Presser’s ordering page
Saxophone/piano version available for concert performance


• Appalachian State University • John Stanley Ross, conductor • Scott Kallestad, saxophone
• Arizona State University • Gary W. Hill, conductor • Christopher Creviston, saxophone
• Baylor University • J. Eric Wilson, conductor • Michael N. Jacobson, saxophone
• Butler University and the Butler University chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi • Michael J. Colburn, conductor • Heidi Radtke, saxophone
• Carthage College • James Ripley, conductor • Andrew Carpenter, saxophone
• Louisiana State University • Damon Talley, conductor • Griffin Campbell, saxophone
• Penn State University and the Margot Music Fund • Dennis Glocke, conductor • David Stambler, saxophone
• SUNY Potsdam • Brian K. Doyle, conductor (head of consortium) • Casey Grev, saxophone
• University of Alabama • Kenneth Ozzello, conductor • Jonathan Noffsinger, saxophone
• University of Massachusetts Amherst • Matthew Westgate, conductor • Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, saxophone
• University of Michigan at Ann Arbor • Michael Haithcock, conductor • Timothy McAllister, saxophone
• University of Nebraska-Lincoln • Carolyn Barber, conductor • Paul Haar, saxophone
• University of North Carolina at Greensboro • John R. Locke and Kevin M. Geraldi, conductors • Steven Stusek, saxophone
• University of Oregon • Rodney Dorsey, conductor • Idit Shner, saxophone
• University of South Carolina • Scott Weiss, conductor • Clifford Leaman, saxophone

In addition to being another name for the element mercury, “quicksilver” is used to describe something that changes quickly or is difficult to contain. My concerto of the same name was inspired by the Roman god Mercury, as well as the mercurial nature of the saxophone: unpredictable, very lively, and volatile. Mercury (known as Hermes in Greek mythology) is best known for his winged shoes, which allowed him to fly swiftly as the messenger of his fellow Olympians. Mercury had other duties too, including serving as the god of merchants, travelers, and tricksters; he also ushered souls of the departed to the Underworld.

Quicksilver tells three tales of the Roman god. The first movement (Antics of a Newborn God) opens with the birth of Mercury; after he takes his first steps, he toddles around, gleefully looking for mischief. He stumbles across a herd of cows that belong to his brother Apollo; Mercury slyly lets the cows out of their pen before toddling onward with his mischief-making. In the second movement (Guiding Souls to the Underworld), Pluto, god of the Underworld, bids Mercury to bring him fresh souls. The movement begins with death-knells tolling for humans who are about to die; Mercury picks up these souls and leads them down to the gates of the Underworld. The third and final movement (Messenger of Olympus) depicts Mercury as he is busily running errands for various gods and goddesses. We first encounter him mid-flight as he dashes to earth to find Aeneas, a Trojan lieutenant who had been run out of Troy by the invading Greeks. Aeneas is on a quest to find land on which to establish a new city that would eventually become Rome. While traveling, he is distracted from his quest when he meets the beautiful queen Dido. They live together for many years before Mercury intervenes; he chastises Aeneas for giving up on his quest and persuades him to pick it up again. As Aeneas mournfully resumes his journey, we hear Dido perish of a broken heart. Mercury then takes to the skies to seek out Perseus, who is preparing to kill the Medusa, the hideous gorgon who has snakes for hair and a gaze that turns those who catch her glance into stone. Mercury advises Perseus on how to slay Medusa and lends Perseus his sword to do the deed. We hear Perseus victorious in the beheading of Medusa, after which Mercury takes to the skies once more to fly home to Olympus.

Quicksilver was commissioned by Appalachian State University, Arizona State University, Baylor University, Butler University and the Butler University chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, Carthage College, Louisiana State University, Penn State University and the Margot Music Fund, SUNY Potsdam, University of Alabama, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Oregon, and University of South Carolina.