Piano trio

From Academic Kids

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 and the Beaux Arts Trio. A more recent well-known trio consists of Emanuel Ax, Young Uck Kim, and Yo-Yo Ma.



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

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 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 (http://www.acmp.net) 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
  • 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
  • Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
    • Vitebsk: Study on a Jewish Theme for Piano Trio (1928)
  • Antonin Dvorak (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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Bohuslav Martinu (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)
  • 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
  • Vitezslav 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)
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Josef Suk (1874-1935)
    • Piano Trio in c minor, Op 2
    • Elegie for Piano Trio, Op 23
  • Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
    • Piano Trio #1, op. 35
    • Piano Trio #2 in B minor, op. 76
    • Circulo, for piano trio, op. 91

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

  • Bela Bartok (1881-1945)
    • Contrasts (1938) for violin, clarinet, and piano
  • 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

See also

External link



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