Duettino Concertante - Eduard Grell
E. Grell - Duettino Concertante (Excerpt)
E, Grell Duettino Concertante - Full Piece Recording
Composer: Eduard Grell (1800-1886)
Grell was a German composer born in central Berlin. From what I can find from his German Wikipedia page his primary instrument was the organ and he had some musicians in his family. On his English Wikipedia page, his Selected Works list is really short and doesn't include this piece. (His German page does, however).
He was buried in Berlin and his grave was an "honorary grave of the State of Berlin" from 1956-2014. That's not really relevant to anything, but I think it's kind of cool.
Date: ? Sometime between 1800 and 1886
Original Instrumentation: 2 cellos, piano || 2 violins, viola, cello (arranged by, presumably, the composer)
Why this one:
When I was looking for something with 2 Cellos (eventually leading me to the Schindlocker duet) I found this Duettino Concertante. After my first glance I dismissed it, as it was actually a cello duet with a piano accompaniment and for the moment the piano is a dealbreaker. But I did see at the end of the score an arrangement of the piece for string quartet by Grell himself.
It looked pretty easy and I thought it was kind of funny to play something called a duet which was written for 3 instruments, and then arranged for 4.
Time: 12/8 BPM=Eighth note 135 (Recorded in 3/4 BPM=Quarter note 135)
What I'm calling the theme (section A) is an arpeggiated viola over pulsed chords sketched out by the violins and cello. The first half (0:00-0:19) is a really simple pattern centered around F using the I IV and V chords (the staple chords of Western music even through today). The second half is a little more interestingly harmonically, centered around the Dm relative minor of the home key F, with some major III and major II chords (0:20-0:36). Those major II and III chords have notes in them that are non-diatonic (meaning not native to the the key), which is what causes the feeling of tension in this section.
Theme Chord Names: [ F Bb F F C F ][ Dm A A Dm Dm C G F C ]
Theme Chord Functions: [ I IV I I V I ][ vi III III vi vi V II I V ]
The theme repeats and then leads into a B section where violin 1 takes over the melody for a while before all the instruments return to playing chords. After a brief trill section in the violin 1 the piece modulates firmly to minor (2:10-2:38) with an unexpected Cm chord thrown in. This leads to the moment of greatest tension with the non-diatonic major chordal stabs in chromatic pairs from 2:39-2:50 followed by a series of modulations to get us back to the home key where the theme returns (3:30).
This leads back into a slight variation on the B section before some gentle chords signal the end of the piece.
I recorded the viola part first, then the cello, then violin 2, and violin 1. It took two recording sessions which I also recorded the Zitterbart Cradlesong. Cello and viola were in session 1 and the violins were in session 2.
I started with the viola because it had the melodic through line at the start and I thought having it as the template would be easier than starting with the pretty nondescript cello part. This was probably a wise move, as I still had a hell of a time keeping my place even when doing the cello part second. It's mostly long holds with almost no melodic content and between having no melody to latch onto and the confusion of recording a song written in 12/8 in 3/4* I had to restart it twice. The cello was technically very easy, at least. My issues were all with getting lost.
The violins went really smoothly. The parts were very easy and it is always mentally easier with this project when I do the later parts after the piece starts to take shape. The only real thing of note on the violin was is how I did the trills (e.g. at 1:55). The mandolin's lack of sustain and high string tension makes long trills like the dotted half-note trills here impossible to play the same way you would on a violin. Normally on the mandolin I just play a short trill as a mordent, but it really didn't sound right here since the trilled notes were so long and there was no other motion occurring in the other instrument. For this piece I just played a tremolo** while hammering on and pulling off with my left hand as fast as I could.
* ProTools doesn't like x/8 time signatures. So rather than record it in 12/8, which is four pulses with a triplet for each pulse, I recorded in 3/4. So what is written as 1 measure of twelve beats actually gets recorded as 4 measures of 3 beats. At the end of the day it doesn't sound any different but it was actually a little confusing to record. It increased my mental load just enough to throw me off; it was one more thing to keep track of while I was trying to keep on beat while keeping track of where I was while reading a repetitive part I didn't know very well while another part I hadn't heard before was playing.
** I hate that "tremolo" doesn't seem to be a verb according to all the online dictionaries. It would be nice to have a verb form, and honestly its such a standard music technique I'm really surprised there isn't one, officially. (I absolutely use it as a verb in conversation but I can't decide on a past sense spelling, which is making me hesitant to use it in writing. Tremelod? Tremeloed? Tremelo'd?
The A section has pizzicato in the violins (plucking the violin strings, rather than using the bow), and then bowing which gives the section two very different tones. I can't do that on the mandolins so, I just played the pizzicato sections the same way as I did the rest.