Shield's Trios, written for a continental audience, are seminal works in the composer's output and mark a new level of compositional attainment in the English chamber music repertory. Technically, they contain a wide variety of ideas which are developed with great ingenuity through a wide range of keys, dynamic contrasts and timbral effects. Aesthetically, they blend 'popular' and 'learned' taste along with 'orchestral' splendour and 18th century notions of beauty. The Trios present a dazzling range of moods and style with each work demonstrating Shield's mastery of the idiom, both in his treatment of individual instruments and in the handling of textures. While there is no shortage of melody and accompaniment, in which the violin takes the lead, there are many memorable solos for the viola and the cello in its high register. The wide range of textures includes melodic decoration, dialogue, contrast of high and low register, legato and staccato, powerful unison and double octaves. Shield's ability to incorporate arioso-like melody, the prevailing 'symphonic' style and folk elements was largely achieved through the cross-generic requirements of English comic opera (a form to which Shield devoted himself during the whole of his creative career). In general, Shield's technique results in a firm control of the way music moves - with sometimes a surprising degree of stylistic restlessness and sometimes of unexpected plainness and simplicity.
The trios Shield selected for publication were issued by Longman and Broderip, London, in January 1796 under the inspection of the composer. No autograph of these works survives and Longman and Broderip's printing, a copy of which is preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, under the call number Mus.Instr.I 214(15), is the only source of this edition. The title page, with its dedicatory inscription, reads: Six / TRIOS / FOR / Violin, Tenor and Violoncello, / Composed / And Inscribed to the Memory of / Jacob More Esqr. / By / Wm. SHIELD./ (Musician in Ordinary to His Majesty) / Entd. At Statn. Hall [rule] Price 10/6 / ADVERTISEMENT / These Trios were Composed chiefly for the abovementioned Celebrated Landscape Painter (in Rome) / And are Dedicated to his Memory as a Token of Gratitude for the Services he rendered the Author / during his Residence in that City. The movements which are written in the uncommon Time / of 5/4 have amused some of the most distinguished Professors both in England & Italy which / induces the Author to hope they will not be disagreeable to the Public at Large / Goodge Street, Jany. 1st 1796 / [rule] / London, Printed for the Author by Longman & Broderip, No.26, Cheapside & No.13, Haymarket .
Shield's three previously unpublished string trios are preserved in autograph score in the British Library under the call number Ms.Add.51015; they provide the only source for this edition.
This present edition presents as faithfully as possible the intentions of these sources. The style and notation of articulation and dynamic markings have been standardised throughout and, where missing, markings have been reconstructed from parallel passages. The notation of appoggiature has also been standardised to minimise confusion. Obvious wrong notes have been corrected without comment; editorial emendations with no authority from the source are placed within brackets.