Trio sonata

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The trio sonata is a musical form that was found throughout the Baroque era and occurred in two forms in the last decades of the 17th century to the first half of the 18th century: the sonata da camera and the sonata da chiesa (Britannica 2007).

Basic format[edit]

A trio sonata is written for two or three solo melodic instruments and basso continuo, making three parts in all, hence the name trio sonata. However, because the basso continuo is usually made up of at least two instruments (typically a cello or bass viol and a keyboard instrument such as the harpsichord), performances of trio sonatas typically involve at least four musicians, and some 18th-century published editions have duplicate partbooks for the bass (Mangsen 2001).

Composers, compositions and variant formats[edit]

Arcangelo Corelli[edit]

The trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli (Opus 1, 1681, Opus 2, 1685, Opus 3, 1689, and Opus 4, 1694) were of unparalleled influence during his lifetime and for a long time after. The Opp. 1, 3, and 4 sonatas are of the sonata da chiesa type, whereas Op. 2 consists of sonate da camera (Talbot 2001b). Corelli's trios would serve as models for other composers well into the next century (Mattheson 1739, 345: § 8).

Johann Sebastian Bach[edit]

The melody instruments used are often both violins. A well-known exception is the trio sonata in Johann Sebastian Bach's The Musical Offering, which is for violin and flute. Other trio sonatas by Bach include:

Other composers[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Allsop, Peter. 1992. The Italian "Trio" Sonata: From Its Origins until Corelli. Oxford Monographs on Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816229-4.
  • Apel, Willi. 1990. Italian Violin Music of the Seventeenth Century, edited by Thomas Binkley. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-30683-3.
  • Defant, Christine. 1985. Kammermusik und Stylus phantasticus: Studien zu Dietrich Buxtehudes Triosonaten. Europäische Hochschulschriften / European University Studies / Études Universitaires Européennes. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. ISBN 9783820485141.
  • Hogwood, Christopher. 1979. The Trio Sonata. BBC Music Guides. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. ISBN 0-563-17095-6.
  • Kamien, Roger. 2008. Music an Appreciation, sixth brief edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0073326375 (annotated instructor's edition); ISBN 9780073265452 (student edition)
  • Schenk, Erich. 2005. Die Triosonate. Das Musikwerk, eine Beispielsammlung zur Musikgeschichte, Neuausgabe 20. Laaber: Laaber Verlag. ISBN 3-89007-623-8.