El Grillo (The cricket) – with decorations – for recorder quartet


Instrumental arrangement, with decorations, of this satirical little frottola by Josquin des Prez.

There is a theory that El grillo refers to Carlo Frillo, a singer who worked for the same patron as Josquin, Cardinal Galeazzo Sforza, and that it was intended to remind the prelate that his musicians’ salaries were overdue. The Sforzas were apparently notoriously mean to their employees, in spite of (or possibly because of) the fact that one of them was happy to pay a large sum of money for a parrot that could recite the Creed. Certainly the words of this little piece, with their reference to the cricket “who sings for love”, seem to have a good deal more impact in this sardonic light. Although the piece is similar in form to many other frottole, it is really quite unlike most such works, especially the way the repeated notes are used for comic effect.

In this instrumental arrangement I have added several decorations and divisions, to illustrate the words behind it, and also just for fun.

El grillo è buon cantore
che tiene lungo verso.
Dalle beve grillo canta.
Ma non fa come gli altri uccelli,
come li han cantato un poco
van’ de fatto in altro loco,
sempre el grillo sta pur saldo
Quando la maggior è l’ caldo
alhor canta sol per amore.

[suggested English paraphrase]
The cricket is a good singer
and he sings for a long time
Give him a drink so he can go on singing
But he doesn’t do what the other birds do
Who after singing a little
Just go elsewhere.
The cricket is always steadfast
When the weather is hottest,
then he sings just for love