Surveys and Polls

Duets in the Applied Lesson - Appendix E: Annotations of the Top Five Recommended Duets

By Richard Human, Jr. • February 01, 1997 • • 5 min read

The following pitch indications were used in these annotations:

These are listed in descending order:

  1. Concert Duets for Two Trombones Vladislav Blazhevich
  2. 12 Two-Part Inventions J.S. Bach/Miller
  3. Twenty Counterparts for the Bordogni Etudes Tom Ervin
  4. Six Canonic Sonatas G.P. Telemann/Brown
  5. Selected Duets Volume 1 & 2 Various/Voxman

Blazhevich, Vladislav. Concert Duets for Two Trombones. New York. International Music Company, 1964. 62 pages, 38 duets.

  1. Range: G to d2
  2. Clefs: bass, tenor, alto
  3. F-attachment: required
  4. Level: Advanced

Found in each duet are fermatas, changes in tempo, and changes in meter. Each performer has the opportunity to give physical cues (eg, indicating when to end a fermata or to begin a new section). Duet number thirty-three contains a cadenza for the two trombonists. In order to execute this passage successively both players must be aware of the physical cues of the other. Each must listen and constantly adjust his/her perception of the "tempo" of this cadenza. Setting tempos will be a challenge for some players, especially on the faster duets. Many of the duets begin on up-beats, with the second player entering quickly after the first.

Blazhevich was very specific when it came to indicating articulations. These duets provide an excellent opportunity to practice matching many types of articulations. Intricate rhythmic figures, use of multiple clefs, meter and key changes, and challenging ranges make this music difficult to sight-read.

The most attractive aspect of these duets is the quality of the musical content. Each player has the opportunity to have "the tune" while the other accompanies. Even advanced players will be challenged by the Blazhevich duets.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. 12 Two-Part Inventions. trans. by Donald Miller. Buffalo : Ensemble Publications, 1973. 14 pages, 12 duets.

  1. Range: C to d2
  2. Clefs: bass, tenor
  3. F-attachment: optional
  4. Level: Advanced

Composed as keyboard music, these pieces offer a technical challenge to the trombonist in several ways. Although the inventions were lowered an octave from the original, the tessitura is very challenging, and large skips and technical passages can be found in all twelve duets. Long passages of running sixteenth notes challenge the breath control and phrasing abilities of the trombonist. Since these are contrapuntal works, both of the trombonists will have the subject, or parts of it. Listening for these statements and knowing when to take the lead and when to accompany should be a constant goal when playing these pieces.

This collection also provides an excellent study in baroque counterpoint. The student trombonist should be aware of the techniques being used, such as chained suspensions in duet number six, and perform them appropriately.

Ervin, Tom. Twenty Counterparts. Tuscon: Tom Ervin, 1992. 25 pages, 20 duets.

  1. Range: Db to c2
  2. Clefs: bass
  3. F-attachment: required
  4. Level: Intermediate

In the introduction to his Twenty Counterparts, Tom Ervin states, "The Rochut editions of the Bordogni vocalises have become the most widely used etudes in American trombone pedagogy. They are prized for their lyric beauty, and also for their development of the endurance, upper range, legato technique, styling, and more." To make this valuable resource even more effective, Ervin composed "counterparts", or duet parts, for the first twenty of the Rochut etudes. These were composed independently of the Bordogni piano accompaniments, are similar in style to the original, and are all in bass clef (as are the Rochut etudes). Ervin has gone to the extra lengths of making the page numbers, page turns, staff and measure layout identical to the Rochut etudes. These counterparts are not published in score form but rather as a part-book. Two books (the Rochut and the Ervin) are required for performance.

The duet parts are technically not as difficult as the Blazhevich and the Bach duets, allowing less advanced players the opportunity to listen to the other part more, and to have time to react to it. Because of the lyrical nature of both the original etudes and Ervin's counterparts, they provide a good opportunity for two trombonist to practice a singing, cantabile style together, listening and comparing their respective styles. The many fermatas and subtle tempo changes challenge the trombonists to listen, and be able to both lead and follow the other through these sections.

Telemann, George Philipp. Six Canonic Sonatas. ed. Keith Brown. New York: International Music Company, 1981. 19 pages, 6 duets.

  1. Range: D(opt.) to d2
  2. Clefs: bass, tenor, treble
  3. F-attachment: optional
  4. Level: Advanced

The Six Canonic Sonatas were composed as flute or violin music. Each sonata has three movements, each one a two voice canon in unison. The movements are consistently fast-slow-fast in tempo.

The technical challenges include many large skips, difficult sixteenth note passages, and high tessituras. Another challenge is the inconsistent application of clefs by the editor. The trombonist will find bass clef passages with many ledger lines above the staff, and treble clef passages with many ledger lines below the staff. No alto clef is used in this edition.

Since both trombonists read the same line, the leading player has the opportunity to emphasize aspects of the music, challenging the following player to listen and imitate the leader. Items such as intricate rhythms and ornamentation can be "modeled" by the leader while playing. The slower movements can be utilized for intonation and style practice.

Voxman, H., ed. Selected Duets Volume 1 & 2. Chicago: Rubank, Inc., 1973. 144 pages, 137 duets.

  1. Range: Eb (opt.) to c2
  2. Clefs: bass, tenor (last 4)
  3. F-attachment: optional
  4. Level: Easy to Advanced

Selected Duets is a collection of 137 duets of various length. They are presented in a progressive order through the two volumes, ranging from very easy to advanced levels. There are a variety of forms, styles, and time periods represented.

Volume one contains works by Corelli, Saro, Telemann, Gatti, and others. Included in this volume are seven studies in canon form. Each canon is at a different interval. Binary dance forms, fugues, arias, and waltzes are just a few of the works in this volume. The second volume contains works by Finger, Cornette, Boismortier, Handel, Geminiani, and Blazhevich. Many keys, meters, and technical challenges are presented in this collection.