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Orchestra Musicians and Chamber Music

[Edit: Particularly note the involuntarily hilarious comment section!]

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 as the Allerheiligen Hofkirche (All-Saints Court Church) has. Built by Leo von Klenze, destroyed by war, and re-built between 1986 and 2003, it now features raw bricks on the interior, instead of the lavish, pseudo Byzantine ornamentations and frescos.

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

available at Amazon
Bach, Fugues arr. for String Quartet, rather modestly played by the Emerson String Quartet*

available at Amazon
Bach, Art of the Fugue, superbly played by the Emerson String Quartet

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 outplaying the Vienna State Opera Orchestra) pretend to be chamber musicians. In this case even forming a string quartet official enough to deserve a name. "LazArt Quartett".

None of these performances have been satisfying, because these player simply aren't chamber musicians, and they seem either unwilling or unable to perform at even the most basic standards required of professional chamber musicians. Their concerts fall generally somewhere between dissatisfying and embarrassing.

A relatively recent one featured Schnittke's Third Quartet coupled - logically - with Beethoven's op.130 Quartet. Except: logically only if the Beethoven had been performed with Die Grosse Fuge as the finale, because that's Schnittke's point of reference. Alas, the program indicated that op.133 was neither played in place of the patched, 'official' finale, nor separately. At intermission my colleague and I were wondering out loud about that curious omission. Die Grosse Fuge as an encore seemed a little ambitious... but how to explain its absence otherwise? 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... they realized they'd never have been be able to pull it off and stuck (wisely, I guess) instead to the still under-rehearsed regular finale. The impression was a sorry one.

Matters weren't much better 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 a pain and Mendelssohn's op.12 E-flat Quartet a chore to the ears. I don't often leave at intermission (and only once before intermission), but these instrument-players, 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.


Anonymous said...

You should have been listen to the whole concert,you frustrate musician !
Or stay at home and listen only to your bloody CD's !

Anonymous said...

Ich frage mich ob Sie überhaupt berechtigt sind,moralisch und beruflich,über Orchestern und Profimusikern zu urteilen ?
Haben Sie einen Studium der Musikwissenschaften oder einen Musikhochschulabschluss vorzuweisen ?
Wahrscheinlich nicht,sonst würden Sie für eine seriöse Zeitung schreiben. Wahrscheinlich sind Sie so ein möchtegern Kritiker,der selber nie eine Fuge auf dem Klavier gut spielen könnte.
Vielleicht auf dem Akkordeon?

Ein Münchener Oper und Konzertgänger

jfl said...

Getting quite excited there, "Anonymous", aren't you. And I love the bit about (not) being "morally or professionally entitled" to judge performances. Where's my license?

Just don't expect me to take very seriously the anonymous ramblings of everyone who happens not to agree with me and thus resorts to petty insults.

Anonymous said...

You poor pen-pusher...

jfl said...

2nd Chamber Concert of the Bavarian State Orchestra

Care to have this poor pen-pusher invite you for coffee some time? Tambosi, maybe?

Or are you as obnoxious in person as you are when anonymously posting on blogs?



Anonymous said...


I would look out for recitals by the wonderful Henschel String Quartet who are Munich based. They are one of the finest quartets in the world.

I hope to attend the Munich opera in May for a staging of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.



Anonymous said...

Daß die Kammerkonzerte der Staatsoper eher traurige Angelegenheiten sind, ist doch ein offenes Geheimniss unter Münchner Kritikern und Kennern. Muss man gar nicht so breittreten. War zwar nicht bei dem 2.KK, aber beim Schnittke-Beethovenkonzert der AdSchK und das war schon ziemlich haarsträubend. Laß sie spielen und geh´ nicht hin wenn Du nicht mußt.

Auch "ein Münchner Konzertgänger".

Anonymous said...

Ich bin nur bei einer Recherche hier vorbeigekommen. Auch wenn die Diskussion lange zurückliegt, so etwas einseitig Abscheuliches darf man nicht stehenlassen. Hören Sie bitte auf damit von einem Konzert auf eine gesamte Reihe zu schließen. Schluss mit Anmaßungen und Pauschalierungen! Halten Sie die Mehrzahl der Besucher dieser gut verkauften und zahlreichen Konzerte allesamt für Idioten?

jfl said...

If you kids from the Lazart Quartet spent more time practicing and less time writing anonymous comments in this column or hiring an 'online reputation manager' who attempts to bluster their way to self-censorship, perhaps those concerts would at last be better.

Excerpt from one of those letters: order of our customer Mr. Adrian Lazar we are kindly asking you to remove an entry on your website The topicality and the correctness of this entry is no longer up to date. It is a major concern of our customer to see it removed:

"LazART Quartett (Adrian Lazar, Isolde..."

We hope you can manage the removal or shortening of this entry according to the wish of Mr. Lazar contemporarily. We wanna thank you for your appreciation, for further information please visit our website (the english version is still under construction).

In case you are not the right receipt for this request, it would be very kind if you can name the correct person in charge.
If you have further questions concerning this case or our services in general, please contact me.
It would be a great pleasure to receive a positive feedback.

With kind regards,