String trio

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The Trio Broz during a concert for the Harare Festival of Arts 2008

A string trio is a group of three string instruments or a piece written for such a group. The term is generally used with reference to works of chamber music from the Classical period to the present.


The earliest string-trio form, found in the early Classical period, consisted of two violins and a cello, a grouping which had grown out of the Baroque trio sonata, while later string trios more commonly are scored for violin, viola, and cello (Tilmouth and Smallman 2001).

Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, although the trio configuration for two violins and cello was not wholly abandoned in classical chamber music (even during the 19th century), the scoring for violin, viola, and cello began to take precedence. Joseph Haydn appears to have been the first composer to use this combination (Tilmouth and Smallman 2001), though he was soon emulated by Luigi Boccherini (Kennedy 1994)

Writing for a violin, viola and cello trio provides a wide palette of textures and colors for a skilled composer. The leaner instrumentation (as compared to the more common string quartet) also poses compositional challenges especially within a musical tradition typified by four-part harmony writing.[citation needed] In the 19th and 20th centuries countless composers after Mozart and Beethoven have taken up this challenge, including Lennox Berkeley, Carlos Chávez, Henry Cowell, Jean Cras, Paul Dessau, Ernst von Dohnányi, Hanns Eisler, Jean Françaix, Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Paul Hindemith, Gideon Klein, Frank Martin, Bohuslav Martinů, Darius Milhaud, Ernest John Moeran, Manuel Ponce, Max Reger, Terry Riley, Alexis Roland-Manuel, Miklós Rózsa, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Schubert, William Schuman, Jean Sibelius, Robert Simpson, Richard Strauss, Sergei Taneyev, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Anton Webern, and Eugène Ysaÿe.[citation needed]

More recently, notable string trios have been written by Murray Adaskin, Alain Bancquart, Robert Carl, Pascal Dusapin, Anders Eliasson, Donald Erb, Karlheinz Essl, Brian Ferneyhough, Berthold Goldschmidt, Sofia Gubaidulina, Bertold Hummel, Talivaldis Kenins, Ernst Krenek, Helmut Lachenmann, Paul Lansky, Ljubica Marić, Krzysztof Meyer, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wayne Peterson, Wolfgang Rihm, Bogusław Schaeffer, Alfred Schnittke, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Graham Waterhouse, Charles Wuorinen, La Monte Young, Iannis Xenakis, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.[citation needed]

While string trio ensembles are certainly more rare than string quartets, there have been, and continue to be, ensembles dedicated to performing and recording the string trio repertoire.[citation needed]

Examples of more unusual string trio configurations include Antonín Dvořák's and Frank Bridge's trios for two violins and viola. Others who have written trios for this combination include Robert Fuchs (three, two in his opus 61 and one in his opus 107) and Sergei Taneyev (his op. 21). Wilhelm Killmayer has written a trio (1975) for the similar combination of two violins and cello and Stefan Hakenberg scored the third movement of The Displacement Map (2002), entitled "Monochrome", for this combination. The Masada String Trio, a group that performs the music of John Zorn, is configured for violin, cello, and double bass.[citation needed]

List of string trios[edit]

Violin, viola, cello[edit]

Composer Composition
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736–1809)
  • Divertimento in C major
  • Divertimento in F major
  • Sonata I in C major
  • Sonata II in E major[vague]
  • Terzetto in C major, op. 9a, no. 1
  • Terzetto in A major, op. 9a, no. 2
  • Terzetto in F major, op. 9a, no. 3
  • Terzetto in D major, op. 9a, no. 4
  • Terzetto in B major, op. 9a, no. 5
  • Terzetto in E major, op. 9a, no. 6
Georges Aperghis Faux mouvement (1995)
Ludwig van Beethoven
  • String Trio in G major, op. 9, no. 1
  • String Trio in D major, op. 9, no. 2
  • String Trio in C minor, op. 9, no. 3
  • String Trio in E major, op. 3
  • Serenade in D major, op. 8
Wilhelm Berger (1861–1911) String Trio in G minor, op. 69
Lennox Berkeley (1903–1989) Trio for strings, op. 19 (1944)
Howard Blake (b. 1938) String Trio, op. 199
Luigi Boccherini String Trios, G 95–100 and G 107–112
Carlos Chávez (1899–1978) Invención II (1965)
Matthew Davidson Music for String Trio (2006) (Davidson n.d.)
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–1799)
  • Divertimento in D major
  • Sonatas a tre, op. 1, nos. 1–6, k. 200–205
  • Sonatas, op. 2, nos. 1–6, k. 212–217
Ernő Dohnányi Serenade in C major, op. 10
Gottfried von Einem
    • String Trio, op. 74
    • String Trio (fragment without opus)
Anders Eliasson Trio per archi "Ahnungen" (2013)
George Enescu (1881–1955) Aubade, for violin, viola, and cello (Allegretto grazioso)
Karlheinz Essl à trois/seul (1998)
J. L. Eybler (1765–1846)
Brian Ferneyhough String Trio (1995)
Jean Françaix
    • Trio in C major
    • String Trio in C major, op. 2
Robert Fuchs (1847–1927) String Trio in A major, op. 94
Joseph Gehot String Trios, op. 2, nos. 1–6
Yefim Golyshev String Trio, Zwölftondauer-Komplexe (twelve-tone-duration complex) (1925)
Jorge Grundman
    • String Trio No. 1 in A major
    • String Trio No. 2 in G major
    • String Trio No. 3 in C major
Sofia Gubaidulina String Trio
Joseph Haydn String Trio in B major, Hob. V:8
Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843–1900) String Trios, Op. 27, Nos. 1 & 2
Paul Hindemith (1895–1963)
    • String Trio No. 1, op. 34
    • String Trio No. 2
    • Des kleinen Elektromusikers Lieblinge
Gilad Hochman Brief Memories for String Trio (2004) (Hochman n.d.).
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754–1812) Terzetto Scholastico Streichtrio
Julius Hopfe
    • String Trio no. 1 in C major, op. 41
    • String Trio no. 2 in G minor, op. 69
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837)
    • String Trio no. 1 in E major
    • String Trio no. 2 in G major
Andre Jolivet (1905–1974) Suite for String trio
Gideon Klein String Trio (1944)
Zoltán Kodály Intermezzo-Allegretto
Hans Krasa
    • TANEC, for string trio
    • Passacaglia and Fugue, for string trio
Ernst Krenek
    • String Trio, op. 118
    • String Trio Parvula Corona Musicalis: ad honorem Johannis Sebastiani Bach, op. 122
    • String Trio in 12 Stations, op. 235
Frank Martin (1890–1974) Trio (1936)
Donald Martino String Trio (1954)
Bohuslav Martinů String Trio No. 1, H. 136 (1923)
Siegfried Matthus Windspiele, for string trio
Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)
    • Sonatine à trois, op. 221b (1940)
    • String Trio, Op. 274 (1947)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Divertimento, in E major, K. 563 (1788)[nb 1]
Ernst Naumann (1832–1910) Trio in D major, op. 12
Krzysztof Penderecki String Trio (1990–91)
Václav Pichl
    • String Trios, op. 4, nos. 1–6
    • Trios concertans, op. 7, nos. 1–6
Wayne Peterson String Trio (2007)
Ignaz Pleyel (1757–1831) 3 String Trios, B 401–403
Max Reger
    • String Trio no. 1 in A minor, op. 77b
    • String Trio No. 2 in D minor, op. 141b
Carl Reinecke String Trio in C minor, Op. 249
Alessandro Rolla (1757–1841)
    • String Trio in E major, op. 11
    • String Trios, BI 341, 342, 343, 344, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 397, 405, 410
Guy Ropartz Trio in A minor for Strings (1934–35)
Albert Roussel (1896–1937) String Trio, op. 58
Ernest Sauter
    • Trio no. 1 (1999)
    • Ballade (2001)
    • Trio No. 3, Trois mouvements contrastés (2007)
Giacinto Scelsi Trio for strings (1958)
Alfred Schnittke String Trio (1985)
Arnold Schoenberg String Trio, Op. 45 (1946)
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Jean Sibelius
    • Suite (Trio) in A major (1889, revised 1912)
    • Trio in G minor (1893–94)
Nikos Skalkottas String Trio No. 2 (1935)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) Hoffnung (2007) (Günther 2008)
Sergei Taneyev String Trio in D major (1880)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) Allegretto moderato (1863–64)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) String Trio (1945)
Graham Waterhouse
Anton Webern
    • Satz for String Trio, op. posth.
    • String Trio (1927), his first instrumental work using the twelve tone technique
Egon Wellesz
    • String Trio, op. 86 (1962)
    • Four Works for string trio, op. 105 (1969, second version 1971)
John Woolrich String Trio (1996)
Charles Wuorinen String Trio (1968)
Iannis Xenakis Ikhoor {Ιχώρ} (1978)
LaMonte Young Trio (1958)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918–1970) Trio (1944)

Two violins, cello[edit]

Composer Composition
Ludwig van Beethoven String Trio in E minor, Hess 29
Luigi Boccherini
    • String Trios, G 77–94, 101–106, 113–136, 577–578 (for some of the trios, authorship is uncertain)
    • Divertimenti G 137–142 (authorship doubtful)
de:Siegfried Borris Terzettino
Werner Egk Trio in G minor
Joseph Gehot String Trios, op. 5, nos. 1–6
Peter Hänsel
    • String Trio in D major
    • String Trio in F major
    • String Trio in C major
    • Streichtrio in F major, op. 40, no. 1
    • Streichtrio in G minor, op. 40, no. 2
    • Streichtrio in E major, op. 40, no. 3
Joseph Haydn
    • String Trios, Hob. V:1–21 (except Hob. V:8)
    • String Trios, Hob. V:F1, D1, B1, G1, D3, A2, C1, C4 (authorship doubtful)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754–1812)
    • 6 String Trios, op. 22
    • 3 String Trios, op. 37
    • 6 Trios Progressives, op. 28
Wilhelm Killmayer Trio for two violins and cello
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Trio in B major, K. 266/271f
Ignaz Pleyel (1757–1831)
    • 6 String Trios, B 404–409
    • 3 String Trios, B 410–412
    • 3 String Trios, B 413–415
Joseph Schuster (1748–1812) String Trio in A minor
Johann Baptist Wanhal (1739–1813)
    • String Trios, op. 5, nos. 1–6
    • String Trios, op. 12, nos. 1–6
    • String Trios, op. 17, nos. 1–6

Two violins, viola[edit]

Composer Composition
Frank Bridge Rhapsody Trio (1928)
Antonín Dvořák
    • Terzetto in C major, Op. 74
    • Drobnosti (Miniatures), Op. 75a
Robert Fuchs (1847–1927)
    • 2 Terzetten, op. 61
    • Terzett in C-sharp minor, op. 107
Zoltán Kodály
    • Serenade, for two violins and viola
    • String Trio, op. 20
Bohuslav Martinů String Trio No. 2, H. 238 (1934)
Sergei Taneyev String Trio in D major, op. 21 (1907)

Alternative scoring[edit]

Composer Composition
F.L. Gaßmann (1729–1774)
    • String Trio in E major, for 2 violas and cello
    • String Trio in B major, for 2 violas and cello
Sergei Taneyev String Trio in E major, op. 31, for violin, viola and violotta
John Zorn Walpurgisnacht (2004) for violin, viola and double bass

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arrangements of 6 Preludes and Fugues by J. S. and W. F. Bach, K. 404a (1782) is sometimes attributed to Mozart, which is doubtful.


  • Berger, Melvin. 2001. Guide to Chamber Music, third, corrected edition. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-41879-7; ISBN 978-0-486-31672-7 (ebook).
  • Davidson. n.d. "Music for String Trio by Matthew Davidson." Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  • Günther, Andreas. 2008. "Karlheinz Stockhausen, HOFFNUNG (2007)". Programme book of the world première of Hoffnung, 31 August 2008, Cologne, by members of musikFabrik.
  • Hochman, Gilad. n.d. "Brief Memories for String Trio (2004)" Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  • Kennedy, Michael (ed.). 1994. "String Trio". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition revised, associate editor Joyce Bourne. London and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869162-9.
  • Tilmouth, Michael, and Basil Smallman. 2001. "String Trio". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading[edit]

  • Downs, Philip G. 1992. Classical Music: The Era of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The Norton Introduction to Music History. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-95191-X.
  • Holloway, Robert James. 1962. "String Trio Literature of the Twentieth Century". MM Thesis. Washington, DC: American University.
  • Unverricht, Hubert. 1969. Geschichte des Streichtrios. Mainzer Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 2. Tutzing: Hans Schneider.

External links[edit]