A quartet life: So Tuesday morning we set out for Brussels…

A quartet life: So Tuesday morning we set out for Brussels…


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2016

Anthea Kreston, an American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet, continues her weekly diary for Slipped Disc.

artemis quartet2


Tragedy touches us in as many different ways as it occurs. To see on a screen, read in a paper, receive a call in the middle of the night, or to hold in your arms someone who is slipping away – these and more are the ways we feel and incorporate sadness into our lives.

On Tuesday, March 22, the four members of the Artemis quartet were all stepping out of their respective doors to head to the Berlin Tegel airport, for our flight to Brussels and our concert in Ghent that evening. Cell phones rang and the news that a bombing had occurred in the check-in area of the Brussels airport turned us around – back to the warmth and uncertainty of our kitchens and homes. As details emerged, it was clear that we were staying home that day – no concert, just stay put and be glad of the arms encircling us.

Our original flight plans had us landing in Brussels at 8:20, but a later flight had been booked in the end. To think of concerts seemed trivial – there was the question of continuing the concert and finding alternative travel – but we all agreed (with the full support and understanding of Sonia Simmenauer, our glorious German manager) that this was not good for many reasons.

So – many texts and calls later – we began the process of deciding what to do about the remaining concert on this tour – in Luxembourg. We talked in hushed voices, as to not upset the girls, as phone calls and emails from the States and on Facebook poured in to ask about our safety.

The Luxembourg concert would go on as planned – but our flights in and out of Brussels would not be possible, of course, and any other routes were prohibitively expensive or not possible with the timings. In typical “American” fashion, I google-mapped the driving route and reserved a rental van for us to pick up in several hours. I called everyone and said – “let’s take a road trip!”.  It became clear that this was not a typical Artemis mode of transport, but I assured them that I could easily drive the 8 hours by myself.

So – Vineta packed the sandwiches, fruit, (and, can you believe it – passengers can drink in cars here) beer and wine. I brought the girls with me and dashed to the crazy and frenetic Turkish street market that happens across the canal twice a week – a selection of cakes and fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. We all packed light and met at the rental place at 18:00.

One thing that I have changed since last week is that I will never again leave without saying goodbye. No matter the time. I have an old Russian friend who told me of a Russian custom in which the traveler, before leaving on a journey, sits silently by the door for several minutes.  I have been doing this for the past year – a moment to reflect, to prepare, to say goodbye.

With a heaviness we left our families this trip together was bound to bring us closer as a quartet – to get to know each other.

We split driving between all of us. Initially we were going to drive several hours, then sleep and drive more the next day. The roads here are very well maintained and I did very much enjoy driving with no speed limit.  Vineta also took a turn behind the wheel before we realized that we were going to just drive through – arriving around 2 in the morning. The rain and the trucks made the trip slower than expected, but we made good time and arrived safely in Luxembourg in the late night (or early morning).

We woke and rehearsed, had some interviews for our upcoming USA tour, rested and had the dress rehearsal and concert. The audience, as it has consistently been, was full and eager – the concert (Wolf, Shostakovich and Beethoven) went without hitch. We decided to start the drive that evening – to get some hours under our belts so we could get home to our families and catch the flights from Berlin.

Right now it is Friday noon – I am standing in the empty apartment that will be our new home in Charlottenberg. As the girls walked up the stairs for the first time, I was overcome with the feeling of the next thousand times I would walk behind them up these exact stairs – always a little taller each time. Sometimes they will have school books, sometimes instruments, sometimes a baguette from our new French bakery across the street. They are running and exploring the new flat – its tall ceilings, antique doors with cutout glass, and parquet floors.  I have a heaviness in my heart but the moisture in my eyes is from happiness. This is just the beginning of our journey together.

(c) Anthea Kreston/Slipped Disc


  • Charles G. Clark-Maxwell says:

    I am really looking forward to the next instalment of this. Thanks for posting !