The pianoforte trios of Haydn are perhaps the only-works of first-rate artistic importance in which there is no doubt that the earlier stages of the new art do not admit of sufficient polyphony to give the instruments fair play.
Haydn finds the pianoforte so completely capable of expressing his meaning that he is at a loss to find independent material for any accompanying instruments; and the violoncello in his trios has, except perhaps in four passages in the whole collection of thirty-three works, not a note to play that is not already in the bass of the pianoforte; while the melodies of the violin are, more often than not, doubled in the treble.
It would be impossible to add a note to Haydn's trio; the only question is how to account for the superfluity of much of the string parts and how to make the trios effective in performance.
In the time of Bach such writing was beautifully suited to enliven the dry glitter of the harpsichord, and Bach's duets for clavier and violin seem to have been sometimes played as trios with a violoncello playing from the clavier bass.
Classical and modern chamber-music in the sonata style consists mainly of string-quartets for 2 violins, viola and violoncello; string-trios (rare, because very difficult to write sonorously); pianoforte-trios (pianoforte, violin and violoncello); pianoforte-quartets (pianoforte with string-trio); pianoforte-quintets (pianoforte with string-quartet); string-quintets (with 2 violas, very rarely with 2 violoncellos), and (in two important cases by Brahms) stringsextets.