Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano (Ligeti)

The Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano by György Ligeti was completed in 1982. The piece was a turning point in Ligeti’s career. Ligeti had composed little since he completed his opera, Le Grand Macabre, in 1977, having only finished a few smaller pieces, like Hungarian Rock (chaconne) and Passacaglia ungherese for harpsichord.[2] Influenced by sources as diverse as sub-Saharan African drumming, the music of Conlon Nancarrow, and the piano music of Chopin and Schumann,[2] the Trio is considered to be the watershed moment that opened up his "third way," a style that Ligeti claimed to be neither modern nor postmodern.[3]

Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano
Hommage à Brahms
by György Ligeti
György Ligeti in 1984
FormHorn trio
DurationAbout 21 minutes
Date7 August 1982 (1982-08-07)
LocationBergedorf Castle, Hamburg
PerformersSaschko Gawriloff (violin)
Hermann Baumann (horn)
Eckart Besch (piano)[1]

Ligeti wrote the Trio at the suggestion of pianist Eckart Besch as a companion to Johannes Brahms' Horn Trio, one of the few other examples in the genre, which is why the Ligeti Trio is marked Hommage à Brahms. Ligeti recalled his reaction to the suggestion: "[a]s soon as he pronounced the word 'horn' somewhere inside my head I heard the sound of a horn as if coming from a distant forest in a fairy tale, just as in a poem by Eichendorff."[1]


The Trio is in four movements:

  1. Andante con tenerezza
  2. Vivacissimo molto ritmico
  3. Alla marcia
  4. Lamento. Adagio

A performance of the piece lasts about 21 minutes.

The composition explores the use of major and minor harmonies as free sonorities without following established patterns of common practice tonality. In addition, it explores the natural just intonation of the upper partials available on the horn, asymmetric Bulgarian rhythms in the second movement,[4] and the Ligeti lamento motif in the fourth movement.[5] The first three movements are each in a ternary form – a notable look back towards traditional forms. The final movement is an example of a passacaglia using as its ground bass a similar theme as that of the opening movement. It has been pointed out that the opening theme of the first movement is reminiscent of the opening theme of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 26, "Les Adieux".[6]

See also


  1. Keller, James M. (2014). Chamber Music: A Listener's Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 281. ISBN 019020639X. OCLC 551723673.
  2. "Trio for horn, violin & piano… | Details | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  3. Mike Searby, "Ligeti's 'Third Way': Non-Atonal Elements in the Horn Trio", Tempo new series, no. 216 (2001): 17–22.
  4. Stephen Satory, "Colloquy: An Interview with György Ligeti in Hamburg", Canadian University Music Review//Revue de Musique des Universités Canadiennes 10 (1990): 101–17. Citation on 109.
  5. Stephen Andrew Taylor, “The Lamento Motif: Metamorphosis in Ligeti’s Late Style”, D.M.A. diss., Part Two (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1994): 22–49.
  6. Richard Steinitz, György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2003): 255–56. ISBN 1-55553-551-8.

Further reading

  • Bae, Jae-hyi (배재희). 2009. "리게티의 후기음악에서의 리듬구조 연구" [Rhythmic Structure in the Late Music of György Ligeti]. Ihwa eum'ag nonjib/Ewha Music Journal 13, no. 2:113–37.
  • Delaplace, Joseph. 2004. "Le jeu de la mémoire et de l'invention dans le Trio pour cor, violon et piano de György Ligeti". Musurgia: Analyse et pratique musicales' 11, no. 3 (Musique et pouvoir): 73–99.
  • Dibelius, Ulrich. 1984. "Ligetis Horntrio". Melos 46, no. 1:44–61.
  • Diederichs-Lafite, Marion (ed.). 1993. "Tag des Musikgesprächs". Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 48, no. 12 (December): 621–39.
  • Josel, Seth F. 2006. "Vertikaler und horizontaler Raum: Tonhöhen- und Intervallbeziehungen im dritten Satz Alla marcia von György Ligetis Horntrio". MusikTexte: Zeitschrift für Neue Musik, no. 111:61–63.
  • Taylor, Stephen A. 2004. "Passacaglia and Lament in Ligeti's Recent Music". Tijdschrift voor muziektheorie 9, no. 1 (February): 1–11.
  • Thelander, Kristin. 1999. "György Ligeti's Trio". The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society 30, no. 1 (November): 43–46.


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