top of page

Duet 1 for Two Violas - Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel


J. Sterkel Duet - Video (Excerpt)

J. Sterkel Duet - Full Piece Recording 

Composer: Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750-1817)


Date: ?

Original Instrumentation2 violas


1. Allegro non troppo

2. Minuet

Sterkel was a German pianist and composer.  I'm not sure when this piece was written, but Sterkel's lifespan is dead in the Classical period of orchestral music (usually from around the death of Bach in 1750 to around 1820).   It looks like it was published as a collection Drei Duette fur 2 Altviolen in 1910. 

Why this one:

Honestly, the biggest reason is that it wasn't very long and didn't look too difficult.  After the rather grueling sessions recording 11 minute behemoths I was looking to give myself a break.  I also wanted to try a piece that only used the mandola.   I pretty much just looked at IMSLPs "For two violas" category and grabbed the first one that was Public Domain and had an composer I hadn't heard of..




Movement 1: Allegro non troppo

Key:  C

Time: 4/4  BPM=118

"Allegro non troppo" means "quickly, without excess".  This movement is mostly in the viola friendly key of C, spending some time in G.  The most obvious rhythmic element is the triplet which is introduced early (about 0:10) with the two violas chasing each other around. The triplet and triplet-like sections of dotted quarter / sixteenth note are countered by a melodic theme over straight eighth notes that is traded off between the two violas (in G at 0:30-0:45 and again in C at 2:00-2:15).


I opted to ignore the two repeats in this movement.

Of the two movements, this one was the more difficult, with several fast triplet passages with some tricky string crossings in the second viola.  

This recording was a sort of "LMP Express," with both the violas being done in the same session.  I did minimal prep work on the score, meaning I had very little idea what the two parts were going to sound like when combined.   Recording the second part while playing along with the first part for the first time was kind of nerve wracking, but also kind of fun.

I recorded the viola 1 part first, followed by the viola 2.  More of the melody is in the viola 1, and I thought I would be able to control the dynamics of the second viola's supporting parts better if I already had the melody down.   I'm not sure if I succeeded.


Post production on this was pretty minimal.  I only punched in a couple of the viola 2 triplet passages to get them a little cleaner.


Movement 2: Minuet

Key: C

Time:3/4  BPM=115

The second movement seems a pretty standard Minuet and Trio, though the B section (at 1:15) isn't labeled as a trio in the score.  The aforementioned B section definitely has a different character than the preceding A section, getting away from the overtly waltz like dance feel of the beginning.  

The Minuet mostly stays in C major with one nice passage at 1:40 modulating to a minor key. (I'm not sure which one).


This movement was pretty straightforward and I didn't haver any trouble with it.  I opted to keep all the repeats in the A section, but ignored the repeat of the B section.  This kept the two sections approximately the same length. 

There's lots of trills in the viola 1 part, but I played them as mordents as the high string tension and lack of sustain on the mandola makes trills nigh impossible to play for anything but the briefest flourish.  

I recorded the viola 2 part first, followed by the viola 1. 


Almost no post-production on this one.  I only punched in one measure at the minor section at 1:40 where i lost my concentration and epically clanked a note.  Other than that what you hear is what I recorded on the first take.

bottom of page