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Two romantic pieces comprise one Chagall Trio concert

The Chagall Trio explores the 19th-century romantic repertory when it performs on Sunday, March 9, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia.

This concert in the Sundays at Three series features musicians who are well-known to local audiences.

The members of the Chagall Trio are violinist Ronald Mutchnik, artistic director for both Sundays at Three and the Howard County Concert Orchestra; cellist Seth Low, who has been a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 1985 and who also is principal cellist of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra; and pianist Andrea Sokol, whose recital engagements include the Phillips Collection in Washington and the Gordon Trust in Baltimore.

Their program at the upcoming concert promises to give a sense of how the romantic movement expressed itself in two different countries.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809- 1847) was an early German romantic composer who was kept busy creating both symphonic and chamber music. The Chagall Trio will be playing Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49. Composed in 1839, it is one of his most popular pieces.

A curious aspect of this piece is that Mendelssohn revised it in order to sound more like the work of one of his contemporaries, Robert Schumann. This was a mutual admiration society, if you will, because Schumann once called Mendelssohn "the most illuminating of musicians" and also praised him as "the Mozart of the 19th century."

Born a few years after Mendelssohn died, Ernest Chausson (1855- 1899) was a French romantic composer whose lush and lyrical pieces exemplify the nature of this musical style at the end of the 19th century. The Chagall Trio will be playing Chausson's Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 3.

Unlike the prolific Mendelssohn, Chausson only composed 39 opus-numbered pieces. Although he's certainly a familiar name to many classical music buffs, he does qualify as a gifted composer deserving of wider recognition.

As for the reasons for his relatively low musical output, Chausson was not precocious and got a late start as a composer. He also had doubts about his skills and therefore did not turn out work as quickly as some of his contemporaries.

There is also, however, a more dramatic reason, namely, his sudden death in middle age. Chausson died at age 44 when the bicycle he was riding through the French countryside went out of control while going downhill and hit a brick wall. Chausson died at the scene.

A measure of how highly regarded he was by his peers was that he was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Not only did such distinguished composers as Gabriel Faure and Claude Debussy attend his funeral, but so did artists including the painter Edgar Degas and the sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Had Chausson not died at the very end of the 19th century, one wonders how he would have taken French romantic music forward into the early 20th century. It seems likely that the impressionistic quality of his music would have deepened even further.

The Chagall Trio performs Sunday, March 9, at 3 p.m,. at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia. Tickets are $15, free for those under 18. Go to

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