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Piano trio

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Piano trio

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A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, almost always a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music.

The term can also refer to a group of musicians who regularly play together. Among the best known such groups were the one consisting of Alfred Cortot, Jacques Thibaud and Pablo Casals, earlier in the 20th century, and the American-based Beaux Arts Trio whose commitment to using the same players in every concert pioneered a new generation of similarly committed groups. A more recent well-known trio in the United States consists of Emanuel Ax, Young Uck Kim, and Yo-Yo Ma. In Europe, leading trios include the Florestan Trio in the United Kingdom, the Trio Wanderer in France, the Trio Fontenay, the Trio Parnassus and the Trio Jean Paul in Germany, the Vienna Piano Trio in Austria and the Guarneri Trio of Prague in the Czech Republic.



Traditionally, piano trios tend to be in the same overall form as a sonata, which can be roughly said to be as follows:

  • First movement - a quick movement in sonata form
  • Second movement - a slow movement
  • Third movement - a minuet and trio or a scherzo in ternary form
  • Fourth movement - another quick movement, often in rondo form or sonata-rondo form

However, many variations on this form exist, and there are piano trios which bear no resemblance to this formal plan.

The role of the three instruments

The piano trios of the Classical era, notably those of Haydn, are dominated by the piano part. The violin only plays the melody a certain amount of the time, and is often doubled by the piano when it does. The cello part is very much subordinated, usually just doubling the bass line in the piano. It is thought that this practice was quite intentional on Haydn's part and was related to the sonority of the instruments of Haydn's day: the piano was fairly weak and "tinkling" in tone, and benefited from the tonal strengthening of other instruments. Mozart's earlier trios are also rather dominated by the piano part.

With time, a new ideal of piano trio composition arose, in which each of the three instruments was supposed to contribute equally to the music. This is seen, for instance, in Beethoven's trios, and was likely in part the result of the increase in the power and sonority of the piano that took place during Beethoven's career, making it more feasible for the piano to play independently in an ensemble. The new idea of equality was never implemented completely; the extent to which it is realized varies from one composition to the next, as well as among movements within a single composition. Certainly by the mid nineteenth century, all three instruments had been modified to have a very powerful sound, and each can hold its own in a modern ensemble.

The earlier trios are now frequently performed and recorded using authentic instruments, of the kind for which they were originally written. Such performances restore the sonic balance the composer would have expected, and have proven popular.

Playing piano trios

Among the piano trios, works by Haydn and Mozart are considered the best starting point for pianists new to chamber music. Unlike string and wind players, who usually learn to play in an orchestra as students, most pianists have little ensemble experience and face a more difficult transition.

Most pianists find that they must practice the trios alone before playing with others, because the repertoire is difficult to sightread.

The extensive repertoire of violin sonatas generally contains less difficult piano parts, and is excellent preparation for pianists who wish to play the piano trios. Though fewer in number, there are chamber compositions for other string or wind instruments plus piano.

The Amateur Chamber Music Players publishes a contact list of musicians worldwide who play chamber music for their own enjoyment. They also publish lists of repertoire.

Piano trio repertoire

Among the fairly large repertoire for the standard piano trio (violin, cello, and piano) are the following works:

  • Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
    • Piano Trio #1 in d minor, op. 32
    • Piano Trio #2 in f minor, op.73
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
    • 3 Piano Trios (E-flat major, G major, c minor), op. 1
    • Piano Trio #4 (arrangement of Septet in E-flat major, op. 20), op. 38
    • Variations for Piano Trio in E-flat major, op. 44
    • Piano Trio (arrangement of string quartet in E-flat major, op.4), op. 63
    • 2 Piano Trios (D major "Ghost", E-flat major), op. 70
    • Piano Trio in B-flat major "Archduke", op. 97
    • Variations for Piano Trio in G major, op. 121a
  • Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
    • Piano Trio (1937)
  • Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
    • Piano Trio (1925)
  • Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
    • Piano Trio #1 in B major, op. 8
    • Piano Trio #2 in C major, op. 87
    • Piano Trio #3 in c minor, op. 101
  • Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
    • Piano Trio in g minor, op. 3
  • Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
    • Piano Trio in g minor, op. 8
  • Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
    • Vitebsk: Study on a Jewish Theme for Piano Trio (1928)
  • Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
    • Piano Trio in g minor, L. 3 (1880)
  • Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
    • Piano Trio #1 in B flat major, B. 51
    • Piano Trio #2 in g minor, B. 56
    • Piano Trio #3 in f minor (once listed as Op. 64), B. 130
    • Piano Trio #4 in e minor ("Dumky"), B. 166
  • Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
    • Piano Trio in d minor, op. 120
  • Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
    • Piano Trio, H. 140
  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
    • Piano Trios, H XV 1-40
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
    • Piano Trio #1 in E flat major, op. 12
    • Piano Trio #2 in F major, op. 22
    • Piano Trio #3 in G major, op. 35
    • Piano Trio #4 in G major, op. 65
    • Piano Trio #5 in E major, op. 83
    • Piano Trio #6 in E flat major, op. 93
    • Piano Trio #7 in E flat major, op. 96
  • Charles Ives (1874-1954)
    • Piano Trio, S. 86 (1904-11)
  • Édouard Lalo (1823-1892)
    • Piano Trio #1 in c minor, Op. 7
    • Piano Trio #2 in b minor (Ode on Music “Descend, ye Nine?”)
    • Piano Trio #3 in a minor, Op. 26
  • Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
    • Piano Trio La Lugubre Gondola (1882), also arranged for piano solo
  • Frank Martin (1890-1974)
    • Trio sur des mélodies polulaires irlandaises (1925)
  • Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
    • Piano Trio #1 ("Cinq pièces brèves"), H. 193
    • Piano Trio #2 in d minor, H. 327
    • Piano Trio #3 in C major, H. 332
    • Bergerettes (5) for piano trio, H. 275
  • Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
    • Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839)
    • Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66 (1845)
  • Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
    • Piano Trio, op.428 (1969)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
    • Piano Trio #1 in B flat major, K. 254
    • Piano Trio #2 in G major, K. 496
    • Piano Trio #3 in B flat major, K. 502
    • Piano Trio #4 in E major, K. 542
    • Piano Trio #5 in C major, K. 548
    • Piano Trio #6 in G major, K. 564
  • Vítězslav Novák (1870-1949)
    • Piano trio in g minor, Op 1
    • Piano trio in d minor "Quasi una ballata", Op 27
  • Arvo Pärt (1935-)
    • Mozart - Adagio for piano trio
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
    • Trio élégiaque No.1 in G minor, Op. posth. (1892)
    • Trio élégiaque No.2 in D minor, Op.9 (1893)
  • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
    • Piano Trio in A minor (1914)
  • Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
    • Piano Trio in E flat major, op. 2
  • Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
    • Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18 (1863)
    • Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92 (1892)
  • Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
    • Piano Trio (arrangement of string trio)
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
    • Piano Trio #1 in B flat major, D. 898
    • Piano Trio #2 in E flat major, D. 929
    • Piano Trio in B flat major "Sonatensatz", D. 28
    • Piano Trio in E flat major "Nocturne" (Adagio only), D. 897
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
    • Trio for piano, violin & cello in G Minor, Op 17
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
    • Piano Trio # 1 in d minor, op. 63
    • Piano Trio # 2 in F major, op. 80
    • Piano Trio # 3 in g minor, op. 110
  • Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
    • Piano Trio #1 in c minor, Op. 8
    • Piano Trio #2 in e minor, Op. 67
  • Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
    • Piano Trio in g minor, JB 1:64 (Op. 15)
  • Josef Suk (1874-1935)
    • Piano Trio in c minor, Op 2
    • Elegie for Piano Trio, Op 23
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
    • Piano Trio in a minor, op. 50
  • Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
    • Piano Trio #1, op. 35
    • Piano Trio #2 in B minor, op. 76
    • Circulo, for piano trio, op. 91
  • Ellen Zwilich (1939- )
    • Piano Trio

Many works also exist for less conventional groupings of instruments, but can still be classified as piano trios. Among these:

  • Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
    • Contrasts (1938) for violin, clarinet, and piano
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
    • Trio for clarinet, cello, piano in B-flat, op. 11
  • Alban Berg (1885-1935)
    • Adagio (arrangement of Chamber Concerto 2nd Mov’t) for violin, clarinet, piano, op. 7
  • Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
    • Trio for violin, horn (or viola), piano in E-flat major, op. 40
    • Trio for clarinet (or viola), cello, piano in a minor, op. 114
  • Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
    • Trio pathétique, for clarinet (or violin), bassoon (or cello), piano in d minor, G. iv173
  • Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)
    • Trio for B-flat clarinet, violin, and piano in C minor, Op. 30 (1932)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
    • Trio for clarinet (or violin), viola, piano in E flat major "Kegelstatt", K. 498
  • Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
    • Trio for oboe, bassoon, piano, FP 43
  • Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
    • Trio for flute, viola, piano, op. 40

See also

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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