Looking for String Trio music; specifics include...

August 15, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Every Sunday (this summer)I have been hosting "chamber music night" in my home. The majority of the time we have a string trio (violin, viola, cello). Now I have started a piano trio group as well that is so promising that we've begun to set our sights on something more concrete (performing). We have enough piano trio music (Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Brahms, Schumann, Mozart, Schubert, Bach, etc.). I am looking for more string trio music, though. I have the Beethoven trios, which have been great for us in many ways, I have a little known "Hummel" trio in G that is interesting...and other short pieces or arranged pieces. I'm trying to stay away from music for two violins and cello, like the London Trios by Haydn; mostly to start really defining our trio sound. Any ideas for good string trio music that isn't "gig" or "wedding" music, but not so difficult (or avant garde style) that it will take a lot of time to put it together rhythmically (we are all professionals and have our hands in many pots, this being our "fun" ensemble that fills in the void musically that orchestral playing neglects and which college primed us for). Ideas? We like music from the Romantic era that can be lush and full of sound despite only having three instruments to work with.

Thanks, guys. Hope to steadily increase my involvement with v.com. I have been reading archives and searching topics; so far I've been really impressed with the scope and range and usefulness of members' contributions.


Jennifer Steinfeldt Warren

Replies (20)

August 16, 2012 at 02:38 AM · Mozart.

If arrangements are OK, Bach inventions and Goldberg Variations.


August 17, 2012 at 01:51 AM · Schubert has some nice string trios too. The Kodaly is very nice and quite interesting, definitely not wedding music. :) If you're into something more obscure, the Jean Cras trio sounds decent, but it isn't written in a way that is very easy to read.

August 17, 2012 at 02:50 AM · I second Schubert, very nice. I'm personally not a fan of the Kodaly, I think it's boring, but then I'm a violist. Probably great fun if you're the violinist.

Others I would suggest are:

Gideon Klein, Jean Cras (seconded), Leonardo Moja, Emile Ratez, Oswald Korte (adorable), Hovhaness Op. 201 (make violist happy), Reger, Enescu 'Aubade', if you're into baroque there are plenty of sonatas on imslp.org. In fact most of the stuff I mentioned is on imslp.org, so if you have a printer and some tape you're in business.

Maaaaaybe the Judith Weir Bagpipers? May or may not be too 'out there'.

August 17, 2012 at 04:00 AM · The Schoenberg trio is supposed to be quite interesting, but quite difficult as well. The violist in my trio liked the Kodaly, for an alternate opinion.

August 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM · There's a great trio by Albert Roussel, op.58 (1937), his last completed work just before his death. It's 22 minutes in three movements, and the writing is rich and equal between the parts. It finishes with a scherzo so it's been suggested he may have intended yet another movement. I remember enjoying reading through it and working on it a little.

August 17, 2012 at 02:45 PM · Thanks, guys! I am the violist of the group, so it is interesting that for the Kodaly both good and unimpressive reports were given. I love Kodaly in general, so I may give that one a look-over. Oh, were I to have unlimited funds for keeping ink in the printer. There are so many resources available for finding sheet music these days. One I used obscenely when I was teaching from my home is somehow too complicated now, but I think I downloaded all the .pdf files useable :). If anyone knows of a user-friendly peer to peer file sharing group that has resources for string players (i.e. .pdf files of materials etc.), I'm looking for something of that nature once again. I am, however, discovering the awesomeness of IMSLP and trying to exercise some restraint there (restraint??? HA!).

Anyhow. I appreciate the input. It gives me a place to start looking and something specific to look for. I'm sure I'll end up with so much material I'll have to make new binders :)

Violinist.com is so awesome.



August 17, 2012 at 03:03 PM · Hindemith wrote one, his Serenade, op. 8. However, since he was a great violist, it might particularly appeal to you. Here is a link to a CD on which he himself is playing the viola part.


August 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM · There are some nice Haydn violin/viola/cello trios, mainly transcriptions of the baryton trios. They have great parts for everyone.

August 17, 2012 at 03:19 PM · As mentioned earlier: string trio transcription of the Bach Goldberg variations.

The Sitkovetsky arrangement is great. As is the performance with his trio you can find on youtube.

August 17, 2012 at 04:03 PM · The two Hindemith trios aren't the easiest to put together and the Schoenberg not at all. Not saying they're bad, I love 'em, but they don't really fit in with what you were asking for.

To clarify, I'm a huge fan of Kodaly. And just 'cause I was underwhelmed by the viola part doesn't mean I think it a bad piece, I just found playing it...boring. Can't imagine how the cellist must feel :P But give it a go, maybe you'll like it.

If you ever did wish to go outside the lush, chocolatey and pretty, the first place I'd send you is Penderecki. I think it's the most straightforward and easy to put together of the modern trios while still being very well balanced amongst the instruments and also quite bada**. Good viola part. :-D

August 17, 2012 at 04:11 PM · If you are looking for something recent that you can download for free, my friend Jeff Harrington wrote a series of string trios, his logic was that there was less repertoire than for quartet so he'd have more chance of it being played. I worked on one of them then asked him to do a version for quartet! (composers just can't win sometimes..).

So here's the link: http://parnasse.com/pdf/trio7.pdf. It's not really difficult to put together, but lets just say that he makes the violist spend a few minutes working out a fingering for 291-305 :)

August 21, 2012 at 02:05 PM · The Mozart trio for vln, vla, and cello is one of his greatest works of chamber music. The Dohnanyi seranade is wonderful. Dmitri Sitkovetski's transcription of the Goldberg Variations is superb.All are fiendishly difficult but oh so rewarding. Chamber music just doesn't get any better than these.

August 23, 2012 at 05:01 PM · Wow, I have not checked v.com in a few days and didn't expect this post to still be active; I was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of great avenues to explore from the suggested music and sites. We played Haydn this past weekend and the Urtext of this particular set (it wasn't mine, which is the London trios set for two violins and cello) of divertimentos had one whole divertimento in alto clef with the rest in treble clef. Unfortunately the cello part for that one was a series of quarter notes that she was able to memorize as we were "reading"! But for the viola? Oh, what singing lines and beauty in the interplay of melodic gestures between violin and viola. With the cello keeping us nice and steady and giving me defined aural rhythmic stability, I was able to let go more and really sing. My weakness as a violist is actually rhythm and counting. If I'm playing first violin, that is not the case, but somehow, playing the inner voice wreaks havoc on my rhythmic reading abilities. I have yet to define EXACLY the nature and origin of this problem to fix it, as it seems to be only when playing viola or violin II. All of a sudden, as a professional with a Masters' degree, I find myself in a position where I am lost way too much of the time and get frustrated as to why...

I assume part of it is the confidence of the "role" each string section plays. When first violin, I have obvious leading roles and the writing reflects that as well as ensemble dynamics. As second violin in a quartet, you have a less charismatic "role", but it is still quite specific in nature, and you learn to listen to viola in a specific way in relation to the cello and first violin. In a trio.... I can't find the "role" and character and how to fit it in.

As well as not being able to sense timing, I find myself making elementary mistakes with things like double-timing, mis-counting when the music uses condensed rhtyhmic notation instead of ties or broken-up visual notation...

I know this is a bit off the original topic, but does anyone else have this problem or experience with it? Or have an idea as to why counting and rhythm would all of a sudden be proving to be a weakness in such an embarassing way just due to the instrumentation and where I sit within it???!! Perhaps I'll cut and paste this as a blog...

Thanks again for the recommendations and leads for music. There is one string trio piece we've played a few times that I cannot find anywhere as a recording to listen to. The music is a Peters' Edition, so it shouldn't be so hard to find! Anyhow.... it is J.N. Hummel Trio in GM. Everything is in German and there are alternate parts included (like two viola parts in case you can't find a violinist!!! Ha!). On the first page of the parts it says: "Joh. Nep. Hummel (1778-1837) but under it it says: "a.d.NachlaB herausg. v. Fritz Stein". I have guesses as to that, and have researched who J.N.Hummel is, but still can't find a RECORDING of this very pleasant piece.

Well. That is about five different tangeants in one "comment". Enough for now, eh?


Jennifer S. Warren

August 23, 2012 at 07:33 PM · Where are you sitting in the trio? After some time playing in my trio we discovered that it was best for balance and communication if I (violist) sat in the middle. No reason to sit across from the violinist and fight to project with your f holes pointing toward the wall. Maybe, if you're not already doing it, give it a try.

I'm not convinced perpetual first violinists hear or listen the same way that inner voices do.

This is only a guess at the problem you're having, but as a violist, even in a trio where you've got more melodic material, you're still at the mercy of the bass and melodic lines in terms of following them. When you're playing an inner voice you can't dictate tempo unless you have moving notes and even then if someone pulls or pushes, you still mostly follow and fit your part in. Sometimes (ahem, first) violinists can be rather excessively creative with rhythm and rubato, or just flat out don't listen to what's happening. Less so with cellists, but still, it's maddening, especially if you have syncopated rhythms.

My best suggestion is to make sure your cellist and violinist are tight, and then glom onto whoever has subdivisions of, or a steady square beat. Insist that your violinist (or cellist, if they have melodic line) lead in a way that *can* be followed. It's possible to lead *and* be focused on playing together, actively listening, etc. Know your part and everyone else's as well, write in cues over your part if you need to. If all else fails hook your metronome up to some speakers and go to town as a group.

August 24, 2012 at 07:13 PM · Amber,

Your comments are very perceptive and somewhat close to the mark, though I don't want to lay blame anywhere, you know? Our cellist is fabulous; we have various violinists (pianists etc.) that we play with and it is astounding how we can play the same piece with huge differences of difficulty and result depending on the week. It IS IS IS hard to lead with the viola even when the group is agreed that it is a passage in which the viola needs to keep a steady tempo; I have much trouble doing that as it seems like trying to make a brick road after being in a cloud (that makes no sense to me, no doubt). We keep the nature of these get togethers light as they are to be fun and we are "reading".

I've been leaning more towards visual clues as to whether I am "on" or "off"; but there is one disadvantage: second-guessing whether you are in the correct part of the beat or even measure or (*sigh) line...you then try to "adapt" or to "adjust" to fit, when in many instances you were correct to begin with. This leads to many more instances of stopping because I have gotten the ensemble stretched apart and unglued.

Confidence. How so much of how well we survive in our art comes down to this one (not simple) word in all its' applications. One can learn it and teach it to some extent, but it only goes so far. There is something deep within each of us that has to find confidence and a sense of comfort and security in our abilities and person without having to place any of it into a sort of "context".

Maybe that is the real issue. That, or "overthinking" and the other shoe... not being totally "involved" mentally, emotionally, physically, musically and generally. I find that, sometimes after an ensemble rehearsal or event, I realize that I wasn't truly engaged, even if it seemed so at the time.

It is harder than you'd expect to get all of yourself together and focused and ensconced by the music and activity of it going on.

Then you can leave and go home and there are not so many stray thoughts and related worries or regrets since you've already 100 percent been through the experience while it was happening.

It happens, rarely, for me...there are some variables I have not figured out yet, and no one can do it for me. I cherish and hold dear those musical experiences in which there is nothing missed for later distress or digress...

-Jennifer Warren

August 26, 2012 at 03:43 PM · At the risk of blatant advertising please do try my own string trio, you can get it from Orpheus Music of Australia. It's called the Collingham, after the three sisters I wrote it for.

If you get on with it I'll email trio no. 2 which hasn't been published yet!

If you're into soundcloud you'll find it on the MrKirby channel! I also have written a small waltz medley for string trio which goes down quite well!

www.heartsofoak.net/TrioWaltz.zip contains parts and a score for the waltzes, you can download them free if you want. (copy into address bar, and when it asks click on save file. If you'd prefer not to download from the net then message me through the site and I'll email a copy.)

I'm not a professional composer, but have had a bit of fun with it.

August 28, 2012 at 09:57 AM · Once when I was playing the Dohnanyi (which I failed to mention earlier but is maybe the best of the string trios) we had the fiddle and the viola swap places so the violist had its f-holes pointing toward the audience, with the violinist f-holes pointing to the stage with the cellist in the middle. It wasn't conventional, but it actually instantly solved a lot of balance problems.

September 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM · Hi,

here's a link to the trio I mentioned earlier.

Hope you like it!

The Collingham

October 23, 2012 at 07:35 PM · And a download and print zip file of the second unpublished trio, and another trio waltz

Feel free to perform as you wish, and if you're feeling kind an MP3 would be gratefully received!

October 26, 2012 at 12:07 AM · I too have had this problem with String Trios. I have found many good trios from Ourtext publishers (their prices are ridiculously low)http://www.ourtext.co.uk/acatalog/M-string-trios-violin-viola-cello.html.

More obscure stuff that has fallen through the cracks.

I would also recommend C. F. Abel's string trios that are available through imslp.

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