The “mirage” of the title refers to an optical effect called a fata morgana, often seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian term named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths.
Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline.
Music often performs the same tricks – the original material is inverted, reflected and changed until it becomes something almost entirely new. This work is in two main sections, slow and fast, separated by a virtuoso cadenza with the material in the second part being a distorted reflection of that in the first. As befits a work commissioned to show off a soloist’s range and ability, the work is highly challenging technically and covers the full range of the tenor horn.
Where the sustain pedal is required by the music, this is indicated in the piano part; pedalling elsewhere is at the player’s discretion.