- Sandra Mangsen
A term applied to Baroque sonatas for two or three melody instruments and continuo. Many trio sonatas are for strings, but wind instruments (cornetto, oboe, flute, recorder, bassoon) are also found. The melodic parts are usually of equal importance, although the bass may be less active. Trio sonatas were perhaps the most popular instrumental music of the period, written by composers throughout Europe and eagerly consumed, especially by amateurs. Their three-part texture could also be rendered by a single melodic instrument and obbligato keyboard, and some sonatas exist in both formats; Bach’s organ trios (bwv525–30) demonstrate the transfer of the idiom to two manuals and pedal.
In the 17th century, Italian church sonatas a due and a tre were composed for two (ss, bb, sb) or three (ssb, sbb and sss) instruments and continuo; melodic bass instruments participated fully in the contrapuntal dialogue, which was simplified in the chordal continuo. From Rossi to Corelli secular trios ordinarily had a single bass part, played by a chordal or melodic instrument (chitarrone in Rossi’s trios, bowed string in Buonamente’s). Corelli’s sonatas conform to this pattern, opp.1 and 3 requiring four instruments (two violins, violone or archlute, and organ), opp.2 and 4 needing only three (two violins and violone or harpsichord). After ...