Josquin des Prez El Grillo Arranged for Cello Quartet
Arranged by Charles Jacot
Title: El Grillo (for Cello Quartet)
Composer: Josquin des Prez
Edited By: Charles Jacot
Instrumentation: Violoncello Ensemble
Pages: 4 for the score and 2 pages for each violoncello part
Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1455 to 1521) was the preeminent composer of his era. The polyphonic style of music that he helped to create during the Renaissance melded together different European styles into winding melodic lines, complex counterpoint, and homophonic texture.
Josquin wrote both sacred and secular works. His secular works included French chansons and Italian-inspired pieces called frottole; the 4-voiced El Grillo is an example of the latter. Typical of frottole, it avoids counterpoint, and the voices move in generally similar rhythm. El Grillo is a humorous song, and according to some was about a colleague of Josquin’s, singer Carlo Grillo (his name translates as “cricket”). The piece is sparkling and features characteristic word-painting of the lyrics, especially the rhythmic cricket motive of paired quarter notes. The text is sprinkled with erotic double entendres. It likely dates from 1498-1499, when Josquin was in Milan.
Josquin’s vocal writing translates quite well to cello ensemble. The harmonies are rich and close and the range tends toward the typical cello range. I would encourage players to attempt these pieces with minimal or no vibrato, instead concentrating on the purity of sound and harmony, as well as the shaping of phrases and balancing of the interweaving lines. The translations also give the rehearsal letters for the appropriate lines.
Below is the text for Josquin's El Grillo:
The cricket is a good singerwho can hold a long note. (A)
Go on, drink, cricket, and sing. (B)
The cricket is a good singer.
But he is not like the other birds, (C)
who sing a bit
then go somewhere else.
The cricket stands firm.
When the weather is at its hottest, (D)
he sings alone for love.