Chagall Trio Plus One adds up to noteworthy concert

A chamber music group accustomed to playing the ample repertory written for piano trio gets to explore the quartet repertory when the Chagall Trio Plus One performs for the Sundays at Three series on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, in Columbia.

Regardless of whether the number of players is three or four, there is a chamber music dynamic involved that's as psychological as it is musical. By definition, such small-scale ensembles literally work together at close quarters and need a harmonious decision-making process.

"You need to take your time and work things through in as egoless a way as possible, so there is no place for a prima donna," says violinist Ronald Mutchnik, a member of the Chagall Trio. Mutchnik also is artistic director for the Sundays at Three chamber music series, so administratively he knows a few things about ensuring that classical musicians get along.

The other two members of the Chagall Trio are pianist Andrea Sokol-Albert and cellist Seth Low. The "plus one" for this Sunday afternoon's concert is violist Peter Minkler.

These performers have various musical links to each other. Low and Minkler, for instance, have both been members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since the mid-1980s.

The Chagall Trio isn't nearly that old. It was only two years ago that it gave its first concert at the Sundays at Three series.

Although this relatively new group obviously gets along, it does not get together very frequently.

"We're all very busy and so we get together every so often," Mutchnik explains. "Because of our various day jobs, so to speak, we can't do this on a weekly basis."

Mutchnik says it was a trip to France that prompted him to name the group after the artist Marc Chagall.

"I'd been to southern France and seen Chagall's artwork in Nice. There are so many musical images in his paintings," Mutchnik recalls, adding that he was drawn to the warm and welcoming emotional qualities associated with Chagall's art.

On a biographical level, it also helped that the Russian-born Chagall spent most of his life in France.

"French music seems to be our affinity so far," Mutchnik says.

The Chagall Trio has been dipping into the rich repertory of 19th and 20th century chamber music written by French composers, and the upcoming concert takes it into that musical heritage's quartet territory. This program is comprised of Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quartet and Theodore Dubois' Piano Quartet.

"The Fauré is one of the greatest works of chamber music for quartet," says Mutchnik, with the anticipation of playing it apparent in his voice.

"The Dubois is far less well-known. He was a wonderful craftsman, but it's unfortunate that he lived at the same time as Brahms, Tchaikovsky and a host of other famous musicians. He was competing in a field of Olympians. He assessed himself and said his time would come, and he was accurate in his assessment.

"He's a wonderful composer who fell by the wayside, but this work is well-balanced, melodic, and full of humor and wit," Mutchnik says of a composition that he believes the Chagall Trio Plus One will be giving its Maryland premiere.

The Chagall Trio Plus One performs Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road, in Columbia. Tickets are $15; free for those under 18, when accompanied by an adult. Call 443-288-3179 or go to

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