Piano Trio Suggestions

August 24, 2021, 8:53 PM · I have been searching a lot for this type of repertoire on this website, but never found one that appealed to my situation. I’m a high schooler that wants to play fun music with 2 of my high schooler friends. I need suggestions for piano trios that are easy enough for the pianist. For reference, the pianist is able to play Chopin’s C# minor waltz, so around RCM grade 9(or whatever that translates to).
Thanks in advance!

Replies (22)

August 24, 2021, 9:45 PM · My first suggestion is to ask your pianist friend what repertoire they would like to play. Even if they don’t have any ideas, their teacher might. In general I prefer some guidance from teachers when it comes to young students playing chamber music.

I don’t know the piano trio repertoire very well but I would be inclined to look at Mozart and Haydn.

Edited: August 25, 2021, 11:10 PM · I am not sure I agree, Mary Ellen. I was part of a trio for a few years. We rehearsed and performed (house concert for friends and sometimes coach's recital) the following pieces: Beethoven op. 1 /1, Mozart C-Major, Dvorak no. 1 and Dumky, Haydn("Gipsy"), Schubert B flat, Shostakovich (yes, the famous one). Of all these works the Mozart was the only one where our pianist made an error that forced us to restart (in one of the numerous 16th note passages in the last movement). I'd agree with Haydn (not "Gipsy" though, or only the first two movements) but Mozart turned out harder for our pianist than all the other stuff we worked on.

I do agree with your advice to ask the pianist; he/she has to have a veto on suggestions by the string players.

Edit: You may look at Beethoven's op. 11 (it is for clarinet rather than violin but it allows to substitute a violin). As I remember it is rather easier than the op. 1 trios.

August 25, 2021, 1:31 AM · Greetings,
yes, Haydn. There are so many early ones to explore. Getting into the ‘Gypsy’ period works is. whole new ball game. When my piano Trio was working through the latter we were often amazed by how shocking, complex and disturbing things could get. Kind of like Beethoven with concealed fangs.
I think some of the Mozart are ok but Mozart is almost always deceptively difficult for pianists, as Albrecht has pointed to.
on a slightly different topic, one of the most rewarding kinds of practice our trio did was to go through a work absolutely getting in tune with the piano to the most painstaking degree. When we could’t take it anymore and just played the movement in question the clarity and freedom that came through was just great to experience.
Cheers,
Buri
August 25, 2021, 6:15 AM · Haydn over Mozart for beginner chamber groups/players.
Edited: August 25, 2021, 8:12 AM · I agree with Haydn, but as someone who plays both violin and piano, about equally well (or poorly), I just want to back you away from the notion that Haydn is easy. In particular, the "Gypsy Trio" is the one people usually start with, but the third movement (the one with the clever "Gypsy" licks and left-hand pizzicato in the violin) is not child's play for the pianist. Coordination of the piano and violin requires good scale-skills to make the sixteenth-note passages sufficiently even and clean. The first and second movements are fine.

A good way to build up your ensemble communication would be to read through the trios by Frank Bridge. You'll find them on IMSLP.

And if you should find yourself in a situation where your pianist is the strongest player in the group far and away, there is the Arensky Op. 32.

August 25, 2021, 8:25 AM · Very true. Haydn F sharp minor quartet is one of the hardest pieces in the repertoire also.
August 25, 2021, 8:50 AM · I think Haydn would be a good choice too.

Haydn C Major Hob.XV:21 is not too difficult (the keyboard part might be the most challenging part). I played it a couple of years ago. It's fairly short but interesting nonetheless.

https://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Trio_in_C_major,_Hob.XV:21_(Haydn,_Joseph)

August 25, 2021, 9:10 AM · I had the good fortune to play piano trios over a period of 40 years with three very good pianists. I played violin parts for the first 20 years and cello for the last.

I agree that Haydn is probably the place to start. The piano parts of all the trios are more difficult than the string parts.

August 25, 2021, 6:30 PM · With respect to Haydn, because of the point Andrew just made, the pianist really needs to be the one to choose the trio.
August 25, 2021, 7:51 PM · Or even without Haydn. See what the pianist is up for, and don't push toward what he or she can't handle. If Beethoven, great. Mendelssohn or Dvorak, great. Easier Haydn or Mozart, you'll all be fine.
August 25, 2021, 11:29 PM · Paul, I don't remember any left hand pizzicato in the Gipsy trio; in fact in any Haydn work I have ever played (which includes every quartet op. 20 or younger).
August 26, 2021, 11:37 AM · I want to "second" Paul's recommendation of the Frank Bridge "Miniatures." There are 9 of them in 3 sets and all on IMSLP:

https://imslp.org/wiki/Miniatures,_H.87-89_(Bridge,_Frank)

I couldn't remember the composer's name (would you believe it?" with me living less than 10 miles north of the Golden Gate BRIDGE!). And I probably have the music, but couldn't find it (didn't know it was on IMSLP).

Edited: August 26, 2021, 1:45 PM · Albrecht, take a look at the Presto, 17 bars into the Minore section, and there are pizzicato open A and open D that are (most) conveniently taken with the left hand. At least, I have always played them that way! I don't see players doing this on YouTube, however. I just checked a couple of videos and in one of them, the player was not really getting to those pizz notes at all, and in the other they were played arco.
August 26, 2021, 3:59 PM · Yeah! I always did them LH, why not? Anything else slowed me down.
Edited: August 26, 2021, 4:41 PM · For Bridge, make sure you're looking at the Miniatures, else you might end up with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HurUunFenok :-). Tried to get my kids interested in that, but my pianist son wouldn't have anything to do with it...they played the Ravel first movement instead.

In addition to all these good suggestions: with a good pianist, Beethoven op. 11 and either op. 70 should be in range, and are very satisfying.

Give this Rachmaninoff a listen, it was my kids' current trio's first piece, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrcAunvpto8. Very big bang for the buck and not terribly difficult.

August 27, 2021, 10:46 AM · When I was a kid, we had a book of Haydn piano trios. I think the last one in the book was the easiest.
Someone said to me recently that the cello parts in Haydn trios are boring to play.
August 27, 2021, 11:18 AM · By and large they are boring (musically and technically) for the cellist. But being part of the group is not boring. You may start with Haydn, but you don't stop there!
August 27, 2021, 12:24 PM · Haydn cello parts are not spectacular, but they come to life more if your pianist is sensitive enough to leave some room for the cellist, as there is quite a bit of doubling going on.
Edited: August 28, 2021, 12:36 AM · You are right about the pizzicati, Paul, my memory has failed me. Now that I looked at the part I do remember. Getting older. And, yes, I too played them left hand (luckily they are open strings; there is a Mazas study on left hand pizz. where many of them are stopped and I never got them to sound properly).

Yes, the cello parts are unspectacular in Haydn, they almost always double the piano left hand. Only in the later ones are there any "solos" for the cello but never many. In the Gipsy-trio there is just one transition of 3 or 4 notes that the cello plays alone if I remember correctly. The cello is nonetheless vital for the balance.

There is one noteworthy exception though: Trio no. 9* in A. It begins with an adagio where the two string instruments sing beautifully together and are equally rewarding for the cellist and the violinist. The vivace that follows throws the cellist under the bus again.

I have often wondered what made Haydn try this just once in his life.

* Official number: Hob.XV.9; the Peters edition (and some others too) have it as no. 15 (or rather XV in Roman numerals).

Edited: August 28, 2021, 9:00 AM · Perhaps the doubling means that Haydn can be an option for beginner groups with a stronger pianist but weaker cellist. Beethoven Op. 1 and Op. 11 are more balanced across parts, and are not as time-consuming for a pianist to learn as some of the Romantic era trios.

If you have strong strings but a weaker pianist, try something like Piazzolla’s Four Seasons. There is an arrangement for piano trio that is frequently performed.

August 28, 2021, 4:39 PM · Ot the other way round: If the pianist is overwhelmed by complexity the left hand can be left to the cellist to play solo and the pianist can concentrate on the right hand part....
August 28, 2021, 7:08 PM · Thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions. I’ve listen to a lot of Haydn piano trios over the last few days and been loving the Gypsy trio. Albrecht funny you say that I was just thinking to remove some of the doubling in favor of the cellist to reduce the difficulty, grateful for some self validation.


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