Piano Trio (Chopin)

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The Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 8, is a composition in G minor by Frédéric Chopin, written in 1828 or 1829, and published in 1829, dedicated to Antoni Radziwiłł. It has four movements:

  1. Allegro con fuoco - this movement shares with the First Concerto the curious failure to modulate from the home key in the exposition, whereas the return of the second theme in the recapitulation makes a brief tonal excursion from which the coda is obliged hurriedly to recall it. The florid writing in the development presages the first of the famous piano études.
  2. Scherzo - this movement is more formally conventional than the opening movement.
  3. Adagio sostenuto - this movement shows great originality in its structure and colouring.
  4. Finale: Allegretto - The final rondo is less dramatic than its preceding movements, but in compensation is full of Polish character, similar to Chopin's Krakowiak for piano and orchestra.

The piece has established itself as a core member of the piano trio repertoire. In a letter to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski dated 31 August 1830,[1] Chopin speculates whether he should have written the violin line for viola, believing that the viola's timbre would "accord better with the cello". Emanuel Ax is of the opinion that it is perhaps fortunate that Chopin scored the work for a standard piano trio, since so few trios with viola exist.

The style of the work is not as instantly recognisable as that of Chopin's more familiar piano works. The work exhibits a confidence and exuberance which calls to mind his two piano concertos and the other concertante works written around the same time. As with these works, allowances must be made for the young Chopin's occasional relegation of the string parts to mere sustained-note accompaniments to the very decorative and imaginative piano writing - especially in the Finale - but on the whole the musical material is well-distributed among the players. This is Chopin's only example of writing for the violin, and it shows a surprising lack of flair (in the opening movement the violinist rarely moves out of first position). There is little interplay between the instruments of the type that makes the trios of Beethoven, Hummel and Schubert so popular. Chopin seems hampered by the confines of classical procedure, working ideas through dutifully rather than with individuality and imagination.

A typical performance lasts approximately 25-27 minutes.

The edition by Balakirev is absolutely faithful to Chopin's text, but makes a number of very intelligent suggestions for slightly different readings of the figuration. And Balakirev allows the cello, which Chopin had left silent, to join the violin for the last statement of the theme in the Finale.


  1. ^ letter no. 63 in the new edition of Fryderyk Chopin’s Correspondence, edited by Zofia Helman, Zbigniew Skowron, and Hanna Wroblewska-Strauss, University of Warsaw, 2010

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