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2nd Chamber Concert of the Bavarian State Orchestra: (2. Kammerkonzert des Bayerischen Staatsorchesters): LazART Quartett (Adrian Lazar, Isolde Lehrmann (violins), Johannes Zahlten (viola), Dietrich von Kaltenborn (cello)), Allerheiligne Hofkirche (Court Church of All Saints) , Munich  30.11.2008 (JFL) 

There is something very satisfying about a civilized little concert of chamber music on a Sunday morning, and particularly so, when it takes place in a venue with the kind of austere dignity such as the Allerheiligen Hofkirche. Built by Leo von Klenze, destroyed by war, and re-built between 1986 and 2003, it now features raw bricks in the interior, instead of the lavish, pseudo Byzantine ornamentations and frescos.

The Bavarian State Orchestra presents its six annual chamber music programmes in this venue, which, apart from the impressive ambiance, also offers a fine acoustic. And what better way to let the Thanksgiving weekend peter out than with a program of Five Bach Fugues arranged for String Quartet, Mendelssohn, Janáček, and Beethoven? Right?

Except I never learn my lesson, going to these concerts where players from the Bavarian State Orchestra (a fine band, capable, on a good day, of easily outplaying the Vienna State Opera Orchestra) pretend to be chamber musicians. None of these performances were satisfying, simply because these players aren't chamber musicians, and they are either unwilling, or unable, to perform to even the most basic standard required of professional chamber musicians. Their concerts fall generally between dissatisfying and embarrassing.

In late October, the “Chamber Concert Modernity Meets the Classics” featured
Schnittke's Third Quartet (a marvelous piece and the reason I went) coupled – logically – with Beethoven's op.130 Quartet. Except: it’s logical only if the Beethoven is performed with Die Grosse Fuge as the finale, because that's Schnittke's point of reference. Alas, the programme indicated that op.133 was to be played neither in place of the patched, 'official', finale, or separately. At intermission my colleague and I were wondering out loud about this curious omission. Die Grosse Fuge as an encore seemed a little ambitious... but how to otherwise explain its absence? The performance of the Beethoven did the answering. During the most excruciating passages of op.130 we looked at each other knowingly: that's why they didn't play it... violins Michael Arlt and Rita Rózsa (she by far the least offensive), violist Elena Schindel and cellist Dietrich von Kaltenborn must have realized they'd never be able to pull it off and stuck, instead, to the (consequently under-rehearsed and sloppily played) regular finale. The impression was nothing short of pathetic.

With the 2nd Chamber Concert, the group appearing has formed a string quartet official enough to deserve a name: "LazArt Quartett". Alas, matters weren't much better. Often I don’t write about bad concerts because it isn’t worth my time – but sometimes they are such an insult to the listener that it is my duty to speak up. So last Sunday: wretched, pitiful orchestra-fiddling and note-playing, wrong notes, horrible intonation, and unlovely sounds from all instruments (a particularly paltry cello) made Bach (in Mozart’s arrangements) a pain and Mendelssohn's E-flat Quartet. op.12. a chore for the ears. In a time where there is a glut of excellent, often very young, chamber groups, and especially string quartets, such a performance is simply undignified – and if the players (Adrian Lazar and Dietrich von Kaltenborn worst among them) don’t actually lack the talent to do better, then at least they gave no heed to rehearsing these two works. Performances like these are, in essence, nothing but gross disrespect of the audience on the part of the musicians.

I don't often leave at intermission (
and only once before intermission), but these instrumentalists, whose level of playing I might have just accepted at a musical soirée at a friends' house, not a concert that sells tickets, were not going to ruin my, and my company's, Sunday.

Jens F. Laurson

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