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The trio sonata is a musical form which was particularly popular around the 17th century and the 18th century.
A trio sonata is written for two 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), trio sonatas are typically performed by at least four musicians. The trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli (opus I, 1681, opus III, 1689) set an inspiring example.
Johann Sebastian Bach's trio sonatas for organ (BWV 525-530) combine all three parts on one instrument. Typically the right hand, left hand and pedals will each take a different part thus creating the same texture as in a trio. These six trios have been transcribed for four musicians in recent times. A further innovation of Bach was the creation of what are strictly trio sonatas, involving a concertante (obligato) harpsichord part and one melodic instrument, thus for two players. Known examples are the six sonatas for harpsichord and solo violin (BWV 1014-1019), three sonatas for harpsichord and viola da gamba (BWV 1027-1029) and the three sonatas for harpsichord and flauto traverso (BWV 1030-1032)
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