Trio sonata

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The trio sonata is a musical form that was popular from the last decades of the 17th century to the first half of the 18th century.[not verified in body]

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]

  • Tomaso Albinoni, 12 sonatas da chiesa Op. 1, twelve balletti a tre Op. 3, twelve Trattenimenti armonici per camera, for violin, viola, and continuo, Op.6, six sonatas da camera as part of Op. 8, six unpublished trio sonatas Op. 11, and a further six trio sonatas without opus number in a manuscript in Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung (Talbot 2001a).
  • William Boyce, 12 Trio Sonatas for two violins and continuo (1747) (Boyce 1747)
  • Dieterich Buxtehude, Op. 1, six sonatas, and Op. 2, seven sonatas, scored for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo. These were the only works by Buxtehude that were published during his lifetime. Though real trio texture does occur from time to time, these are really sonate a due for violin and viola da gamba, with the continuo often being a simplification of the gamba part. There are however four genuine trio sonatas by Buxtehude surviving in manuscript, two for two violins, viola da gamba and continuo in C and G major (BuxWV 266 and 271), one for two violins and continuo in F major (BuxWV 270, fragmentary), and one for viola da gamba, viola, and continuo in D major (BuxWV 267) (Snyder 2001).
  • George Frideric Handel, trio sonatas Opp. 2 and 5, all in sonata da chiesa form. The attribution to Handel of a set of trios for two oboes and continuo is false, and the authenticity of the three trios HWV 393, 394, and 395 is doubtful or uncertain. A trio sonata in F for two recorders and continuo, HWV 405, appears to be authentic (Hicks 2001).
  • Pietro Antonio Locatelli, six Trio Sonatas, Op. 5, for two violins or two traversos and continuo (1736) (Locatelli 1736)
  • Johann Pachelbel, Musikalische Ergötzung ("Musical Delight"), containing six suites for two violins and basso continuo, each commencing with a sonata, followed by a succession of dances. The violin parts use scordatura tuning. The sonatas are of two types. Nos. 1 and 3 are marked Allegro, and are fughettas. The remaining four are Adagio movements and are similar to French overtures, in two sections (Nolte, Butt, and Butler 2001).
  • Henry Purcell, Twelve sonatas of three parts, 1683, ten sonatas in four parts, 1697, but both sets are scored for two violins, bass viol, and organ or harpsichord. In terms of style, Purcell's trio sonatas are conservative, modeled on the older generation of Italians (Giovanni Legrenzi, Lelio Colista, and Giovanni Battista Vitali) rather than Corelli or Giovanni Battista Bassani (Holman, Thompson, and Humphreys 2001).
  • Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, over 25 extant trio sonatas, including two for solo organ. Others for continuo (sometimes indicated as harpsichord) and diverse combinations of flute(s), violin(s), oboes or unspecified instruments (Stölzel c.1750; Stölzel c.1720–50; Stölzel c.1740; Stölzel c.1760a; Stölzel c.1760b Stölzel c.1770; Stölzel n.d.; Stölzel c.1700–1799a; Stölzel c.1700–1799b)
  • Georg Philipp Telemann, around 150 trio sonatas (Anon. n.d.). The earliest sonatas exhibit the Corelli style most clearly, while later works anticipate the mid-century Empfindsamkeit and galant styles, or mix Italian, French, and Polish styles (Zohn 2001).
  • Antonio Vivaldi, 12 trio sonatas da camera Op. 1, two trio sonatas mixed with solo sonatas in Op. 5, and thirteen unpublished trios. One further trio sonata, RV 80, in G major, for two flutes and continuo, is attributed to Vivaldi but is probably spurious (Talbot 2001c).
  • Jan Dismas Zelenka, six sonatas (scores), ZWV 181, composed around 1721–1722 (Zelenka [1721–22]). Although the first sonatas of the set are written down on three staves (the first also being marked as Sonata à 3) Zelenka seems to have treated the continuo as a separate fourth part for all of them. The first two are for two oboes and bassoon (+ continuo), the third is for violin, oboe and bassoon (+ continuo), the fourth, on four staves from the third movement, for two oboes, basso and violone, and the last two for two oboes and two low-pitched instruments.[citation needed] These are technically difficult pieces, containing some extremely demanding bassoon and oboe parts.[citation needed]


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. n.d. Music an Appreciation, Edition Sixth Brief, [S.l.]: [S.n.][full citation needed]
  • Schenk, Erich. 2005. Die Triosonate. Das Musikwerk, eine Beispielsammlung zur Musikgeschichte, Neuausgabe 20. Laaber: Laaber Verlag. ISBN 3-89007-623-8.