Things I have to do before we start rehearsal

Things I have to do before we start rehearsal


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2016

Anthea Kreston, the new violinist in the Artemis Quartet, has moved her family to Berlin, found a home and schools and is now settling into rehearsal. But before she can begin…. here’s the latest exclusive extract from her diary.

anthea kreston1


This week – Ecki’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Gregor finally came out of a week of a serious flu, Vineta broke a tooth, and I alternate between small victories and small mistakes. Jason and I now can rent cars at will. We have found a great school for Tzippy for the fall, and now can search for a place to live in that area. We have found a babysitter to allow Jason some practice time. Jason got a speeding ticket and my German is atrocious (but I am trying!).  In a nutshell.

So – rehearsal prep. This section could either be for musicians (who may find it interesting or very annoying) or non-musicians.

Over the years, I have developed (as all musicians do) a way of getting from 0% prepared to 100%.  There are three main sections of this – personal technique, historical knowledge, and score study. These three factors rely on one another, and grow in fits and starts. There is, of course, no way of getting to 100% – it is more of a vanishing point situation.

First – my practice set-up:

Pencils, yellow highlighter, and red pen
Three binders – my personal part, scores, and a copy of the original Artemis part – and preferably three stands
Recording device
Collection of recordings of the pieces (some people like to listen to recordings and some don’t)
Tasty drink (or several"<br)


  • Peter says:

    “normally a phrase is 8 bars”…
    I stopped reading right there.

    • Doug says:

      I stopped reading when I saw the photo of that revolting shtik drek with a violin at his chin.

      • Tor F says:

        That is a curious comment about a great violinist and character in our history, one who contributed much to the art and was held in the highest regard by the orchestral musicians with whom he performed, those who studied with him and of course the audiences who cherished every phrase. (Many of which are in fact 8 bars long making them comple sentences).
        I think this is an insightful and useful article for performers, teachers, students and audience who basically have no idea how the musos or performances got to be where they are

      • Bruce says:

        I attended an Isaac Stern master class when I was in college. One of the school’s resident hotshot students got up to perform for him and was doing his usual dramatic motions & emoting while he played. After a few minutes Stern stopped him, walked up to the student, said “start again from the beginning,” and held onto the scroll of the student’s violin. With the violin unable to move, the energy the student was putting into his movements was suddenly directed into the instrument. The student’s tone doubled in size and his playing (as opposed to his acting) became enormously more dramatic.

        I’m well aware of Stern’s reputation as a power broker, maker & destroyer of careers, etc.; and I honestly was never a fan of his playing. But — that was a great piece of teaching I saw him do that day. I almost wonder if, in a strange way, he missed his true calling…

    • Bruce says:

      Nothing wrong with explaining a piece of basic knowledge to readers who may not be musicians. (Just my opinion.)

    • David banney says:

      Actually, two, four and 8 bar phrases are a kind of norm, at least in baroque and classical music, and what is very insightful in this article is the suggestion that where these norms are broken, something interesting is happening. For what it’s worth, I just wrote a phd about it!
      I think this a great article – hopefully none of it is news to professional players, but I will certainly be showing it to my students, many of whom still struggle to remember to bring a pencil to our rehearsals.

  • will says:

    “the photo of that revolting shtik drek with a violin at his chin.”
    Hmmm… assuming that you are referring to the late ‘almost beatific’ Isaac Stern (?) would you care to enlarge on why you have that ‘somewhat controversial’ view of the great violinist’?
    I used to work with him quite a lot with the ECO, Barenboim, Zukerman et al, and alway found him refeshingly ‘normal’ , NOT egotistic, and in no way pompous or ‘affectedly superior’ in his dealings with the orchestral players.
    if there are other issues that we should be told about, then ‘please tell’!

  • Ricardo says:

    What’s with all the negativity? Anthea Kreston is putting down some really interesting and useful information for us to read. And I am sure she has plenty of other things to do. Please show some respect. If you don’t like to read it, don’t, and keep your negativity to yourselves.

  • Margaret says:

    Another wonderful post! Thank you for giving us your incredible insights.

  • Bruce says:

    These are some really good preparation techniques.

    I love reading these posts.

  • Andrew Moravcsik says:

    This is a unique and fascinatingly detailed description of the detailed preparation that goes into an inspired classical music performance–from one professional’s perspective. I find that biographical statements of any kind by musicians–books, posts, interviews–are always long on flashy stories about the final product and short on descriptions of the hundreds of hours of front end work that go into it. (Renée Fleming’s autobiography is an interesting exception.) Also, this is a riposte to whomever it was who complained a week ago about reading Anthea’s post about family issues. Obviously she can write about anything engagingly.

  • Alla Aranovskaya, first violinist of the Grammy Nominated St.Petersburg Quartet. says:

    Ms. Kreston with this “stories”continuously discrediting professional musicians. Reading those
    primitive ” articles” I become really nervous about previously great Artemis Quartet. With such ” thinker” inside the group they have no future.

    • Scott Fields says:

      Is this really Aranovskaya? She lives in the US and I think her English grammar is better than that in the comment, at least what I’ve read from her in the past.

      • Alla Aranovskaya, First violinist of the Grammy Nominated St.Petersburg Quartet says:

        Yes. This is Alla. Yes I live in the USA where I moved permanently in 1997 at age 39. Yes, my granmar is not the best because I never studied English. At the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 8O’s I studied French. Yes I came to performand and teach to the USA in 1987 with no English at all and was not able to talk almos like FISH for 2 years using just Italian , French and German as much as I knew from the music, and gestures to communicate with students and audience.
        Yes my grammar is better in my articles and books because some of my friends-wrighters like Lilian Duval, helped me to prepare my manuscript for the publication. Yes, my manager called me English “Allish”.
        Yes it’s me , who saying that the dairy of Ms. Kreston discrediting professional musicians because in my opinion professional musician can explain music more sublime and understandably not just for kinder garden level.

    • A. B. says:

      Ms. Aranovskaya, super-talented violinist!


  • TorF says:

    How does this ‘discredit professional’ musicians? While recognising from your ‘Grammy nominated’ quartet title that you are a musician of some accomplishment, it may surprise you to know there are many wonderful musician who are also intelligent and highly regarded as thinkers. Some are men and some are women, some are Russian and many are not Russian

    • Alla Aranovskaya, First violinist of the Grammy nominated St. Petersburg String Quartet says:

      Ms. Kreston discrediting professional musicians because in my opinion professional musician can explain music more sublime and understandably not just for kinder garden level.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Alla, this is getting tedious. You don’t like the exposure this quartet is getting? We got the point. Now give it a rest.

      • Liana says:

        Alla Aranovskaya, after your comment, it will be very interesting to know what would YOU do better (in your point of view)? How prepare yourself for rehearsals?

        • Alla Aranovskaya, First violinist of the Grammy nominated St. Petersburg String Quartet says:

          It’s very depends on What you going to play and with Whom you going to rehearse.
          It’s every day different. If musicians will spend time to describe in writing how to prepare for the rehearsals, they will have no time to practice.
          Liana, If you found really interesting how mudicians preparing for the rehearsals you better go to several concerts that have pretalking or post concert Q&A with performers and ask this question. YOu WILL BE SURPRISED.

  • Margaret says:

    I really think this “ALLA” cannot be someone real – it must be a joke. It is too hilarious. Keep these coming! Maybe “ALLA” can post some more deep and “intellectual” thoughts. If this is her (I can’t imagine it possibly could be), how embarrassing, and if not – someone should let her know that someone has hacked her identity!

    • Bruce says:

      She is real, and judging from YouTube is a wonderful violinist. Obviously she has a strong personality :-\

      There are many wonderful musicians who believe that their way is the only way, and many wonderful musicians who do not.

  • Milka says:

    Obviously nothing but one persons’ method to get to wherever she is going .Listing
    with whom she worked& studied is brownie points to impress or not .You
    can study for 50 years with celebrated conductor and still be a 3rd. rate musician .
    Bowing and fingering to a general audience is meaningless , they are listening to
    a finished product , not how one gets there . The historical section alone is enough to
    give one pause, as it is for the most part more than ignorant nonsense even when it seemingly touches on some basic valid points .The dreary little family life could
    easily be dispensed with , or are we to be informed constantly how many diaper changes are in store for us now that the new kid has arrived .This is indeed a bizarre turn of
    events on this site fast approaching parody.

    • Martina says:

      I am not a trained musician, but I have listened to live performances of all the great contemporary string quartetts my whole adult life (which is longer than I care to admit…). I find Ms Krestons explanations of her practice interesting and engaging because they shed a light on the personal artistic process and on the decisions a quartett and their individual players have to make in order to present a concert to their audience that is rewarding to both. And, yes, musicians have personal lives, too – obviously nobody ever has thought about it, judging by the snide comments and silly remarks that Ms Krestons short remarks about the challenges of starting a new carreer on another continent provoke.

  • NYMike says:

    Milka’s alter-ego

  • Bruce says:

    It is enjoyable to see how the people who think this diary is uninteresting can’t seem to stay away from it 🙂

  • RW2013 says:

    Arrau used to suggest to younger colleagues that they go to the theatre, read books from all eras, busy themselves with architecture and visual arts. Far cry from the colouring-in pencils of the (nameless) famous great Spanish conductor in Ct…

  • DMH says:

    These are great suggestions. Especially about practicing with a score at hand, knowing which part could be considered the lead and especially how the rhythms of the parts mesh.

  • Kent Man says:

    Marvelous, very good read. As a non musician I find it most interesting how you prepare for a performance. It would be interesting to hear from other musicians as to how they go about this. Maybe some of the supercilious commentators could enlighten us!

  • Cheryl says:

    Thank you , Anthea! We love you.