Plays Well with Others: Duets in Instrumental Treatises

The Exhibition

Leopold Mozart

Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule

(Augsburg: J.J. Lotter, 1756)


Born and raised in Augsburg, Leopold Mozart (1719–1787) was a prolific composer, though his music is rarely performed today. (He also had a hand—sometimes a substantial one—in his young son’s earliest compositions.) But his most notable work is a book, not a musical composition. In 1756 (the year of Wolfgang’s birth), Leopold published his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, which is now regarded as the most important violin treatise of its era. It went through numerous editions and translations, and even today, it is carefully studied by violinists and musicologists interested in 18th-century performance practice. 

Leopold Mozart

Grondig Onderwys in het Behandlen der Viool

(Harlem, the Netherlands: Joannes Enschede, 1766)

An example of his own duets from an early Dutch translation is also displayed, which shows some duets in the form of exercises for two violins, and Mozart’s explanation: “In this and the following examples a second violin part is added below, so that that teacher and pupil together may play each part alternately … Here are the pieces for practice. The more distasteful they are the more am I pleased, for that is what I intended.” 

Leopold Mozart

Méthode raisonnée pour apprendre à jouer du violon:
traduite de l’allemand en Français par Valentin Roeser

(Paris: Zurfluh, 1770; reprint, Paris: Zurfluh, c1993)

The abridged French translation of Versuch, published in 1770, added a set of 12 duets and a Caprice, perhaps by Roeser, also seen here in facsimile. 

Gift of the Friends of Music at Yale University

Vincenzo Galilei

Fronimo: dialogo sopra l’arte del bene intavolare,et rettamente sonare la musica negli strumenti artificiali si di corde come di fiato & in particulare nel liuto

(Vineggia: G. Scotto, 1584)

Vincenzo Galilei (d. 1591), the father of the scientist Galileo Galilei and lutenist and composer Michelagnolo Galilei, was himself a composer, lutenist, and singer, but he achieved his most lasting recognition for his theoretical writings. A copy of his best-known treatise, Dialogo della musica antica e moderna (Florence: Giunta, 1602), is bound with this lute treatise. This treatise is written in a didactic style, and covers not only practical instructions, but also the correct way to intabulate music for the lute. The duets exhibited here were included in a section containing compositions by thirty-two composers. The composer of these duets is only identified as “B.M.”. A short note in the text describes him as a Florentine and a “virtuoso gentil’huomo.”

Portrait File

Engraving of lute ensemble

Ralph Kirkpatrick Fund

Antonio Leite

Estudo de Guitarra

(Porto: Officina Typografica de A. Alvarez Ribeiro, 1796)


Antonio Leite (1759–1833) was a Portuguese composer, guitarist, teacher, and conductor. He was a skilled guitarist, playing the Portuguese guitar, which was tuned higher than normal, and was the instrument for which this treatise was written. In the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Portuguese guitar became very popular in the city of Oporto, where Leite lived and worked, where it was used in Hausmusik. The use of this type of guitar never became widespread, disappearing in the second half of the nineteenth century in favor of other models.

Joe Charupakorn

The Best of Django Reinhardt:
A Step-by-Step Breakdown of the Guitar Styles and Techniques of a Jazz Giant

(Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, c2003)

A modern version of duet-playing, this method book includes a play-along compact disc. Method books that include compact discs, DVDs, or Mp3 tracks are now commonplace. 

Etienne Ozi

Nouvelle methode de basson

(Paris: Dufaut et Dubois, 1803)

Bassoon virtuoso, teacher, music publisher, and composer Etienne Ozi (1754–1813) wrote two other bassoon treatises before his Nouvelle methode de bassoon of 1803. This is the first comprehensive method book for the bassoon, and its detailed treatment of the execution of embellishment and extempore is an important source for late eighteenth-century performance practice, and the performance practice and compositional traditions established by Ozi were significant in shaping a national school of playing. He also wrote eight bassoon concertos, chamber and wind band music, bassoon duets, and a method book for the serpent, a wooden lip-reed instrument in the brass family. 

Etienne Ozi
Six Duos pour deux bassons
(Paris: Imprimerie de la Conservatoire de Musique, ca. 1805)

A collection of Ozi's bassoon duets, published separately from the Methode by him, is included here. They were written for his bassoon students attending the Paris Conservatoire.

Apollon Marie-Rose Barret

A Complete Method for the Oboe,
Comprising All the New Fingerings,
New Tables of Shakes, Scales, Exercises, etc.,
With an Explicit Method of Reed Making

Second edition

(London: Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co., 1862?)

As an influential player, teacher, composer, and designer of oboes, Appollon Marie-Rose Barret (1803–1879) had a career that bears a resemblance to that of eighteenth-century flutist Jacques Hotteterre. This second edition of Barret’s oboe method includes a description of his improvements to the oboe’s design and key mechanism, and promotes his new design made by Triébert in Paris.

The duets displayed here contain solo lines of sonatas, opera scenes, and other large-form music; they include a single supporting bass line, to be played on bassoon or cello. Some speculate that these are compressed piano parts, and could be realized by a pianist. However, Barret composed music for oboe and piano with the piano part written out, so this theory is debatable.

From the Dragan Plamenac Collection

J.J. Quantz

Essai d’une méthode pour apprendre à jouer de la flûte traversière

(Berlin: Chez Chretien Frederic Voss, 1752)

This is a French edition of Quantz’s Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte zu spielen published in 1752, the same year as the original German edition. This seminal work has been translated into many languages, and has probably been in print continuously since it was first published. Only five of the eighteen chapters are specific to flute playing; the section on ornamentation is still studied by all wind players who perform Baroque music. His take on studying duets is featured in the introduction to this exhibit.

Portrait File

Engraving of Johann Joachim Quantz

Charles Weiss

Two Hundred Studies, Flute

(London: Clementi & Cie, 180-?)

Charles Weiss was a German-born British composer and flute player. He studied the instrument with his father, Carl Weiss, who was principal flute in King George III’s private band. Charles Weiss was a very successful player and teacher, and wrote many compositions for flute, including the New Methodical Instruction Book for the Flute, op. 50, a Flute Concerto op. 1, Studies in Modulation for Two Flutes, op. 2, and the Two Hundred Studies, op. 3, displayed here. 

John Simpson

The Compleat Tutor for the French Horn
Containing the Best and Easiest Instructions for Learners to Obtain a Proficiency
To Which Are Added All the Hunting Notes and Several Choice Lessons
for One and Two French Horns

(London: J. Simpson, ca. 1746)

This treatise, probably the first published for horn, contains only four pages of instructions “demonstrating and shewing how to express distinctly every note on the French horn.” The rest of the book contains hunting calls and duets for horns, and at the end of this copy are seven pages of manuscript horn music, “Corno Primo” from horn duets, sewn in. 

A. Lagard

Methode de trompe ou cor de chasse

(Paris: Alfred Ikelmer, 187-?)

This method book for playing the trompe de chasse, the traditional French hunting horn, is the most unusual item in this exhibit, because it begins not with lessons in music or rhythm, but with explanations of the hunt, illustrations and descriptions of hunting dogs, game, and their tracks and antlers; only after all of that does it give instructions on the trompe and how to play it. At the end are included trios and duets. 

Frédéric Duvernoy

Méthode pour le cor

(Paris: A L’imprimerie du Conservatoire de Musique, 1803)

Frédéric Duvernoy (1765–1838) was a colleague at the Paris Conservatoire of Etienne Ozi, who is also featured in this exhibit. This Methode, bearing Ozi’s stamp and the imprint of the Conservatoire, was published by him. Duvernoy was a famous horn player in his day. After the French revolution, the Paris Conservatoire was formed, and Duvernoy became a horn professor there in 1795. He was rumored to have been a favorite horn player of Napoleon, and was later appointed first horn to the Imperial Chapel during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. As a pedagogue, he is best known for advocating for the cor mixte style, rather than have students learn to play in the cor alto or cor basso styles taught by the other two horn professors at the Conservatoire. In addition to playing and teaching horn, he was also a composer of chamber music, at least twelve horn concertos, and wrote several sets of horn duets. 

Frédéric Duvernoy

Méthode pour le cor

(Paris : Janet et Cotell, [between 1824 and 1826])

This edition of Duvernoy's book includes a hand-colored illustration.