An hour from now, I’ll be in the cacophony of the volcano

It’s zero hour for Anthea Kreston, the new US member of Germany’s outstanding Artemis Quartet. She has dashed off her weekly diary instalment for Slipped Disc before plunging into the group’s opening concert.

Read on…



I was invited to audition for the Artemis Quartet the last week of December, arrived in Berlin from Oregon on January 9, was asked to join on January 12, and moved with my family to Germany on February 8.  We began rehearsing together for our March European tour and April USA tour on February 12.  Our first concert is tonight, March 4.

The Artemis quartet normally plays a couple of house concerts in Berlin before going on tour. They (we – I am still getting used to thinking “we”) have a loyal following here in Berlin and house concerts are a way of both seasoning new repertoire and thanking the supporters by offering an intimate look at the quartet – both in performance and in receptions after the concerts.

Because I am new, Gregor has switched to the viola from violin, and we have two programs that we are preparing at the same time, we have decided to play three house concerts this week. After each, we gather and watch the video of the performance and decide what we like and what we would like to modify. Everything is analyzed, from the concept of the piece to the amount of vibrato, and all opinions are equally listened to. Next week we head off to concerts in Eindhoven, Essen, Rotterdam, Bremen, Amsterdam (two concerts), Gent, Luxembourg, and Wien.  Then in April, we have a couple of more in Europe before heading to the States.

The rehearsals have been very well organized – each day has a plan for which movements will be rehearsed, spot rehearsals, and run-throughs (initially movements, in the past days, Durchspiels – full work play-throughs). In addition, meetings with the manager, publicist, photographer, secretary, and interviews fill up any remaining time. Every day we rehearse between 4-7 hours, and my commute is about an hour each way. I try to have personal practice and study 2-3 hours on top of our group rehearsals, and Jason and I are squeezing in bank meetings, looking at apartments and schools, and trying to navigate health insurance and work visas.

Last week I spoke in detail about my personal practice, and I would like to talk a bit about the quartet practice time. The Artemis is a purely democratic ensemble, which is one of the reasons I have always admired and loved their sound. Each member has a large personality and stage presence, and the leading of phrases and the sound is continuously being passed from one member to another. They also have their own language in rehearsals – every day I am introduced to many new terms – so far about 10 differently named vibratos (often named after former teachers) and as many named accents and types of bow techniques. One of my favorites is the “Autobahn” sf – one that starts after the note and sounds like a speeding car passing you on the Autobahn. It is a lot of information to process, but things are alway approached with emotion or character first. That is the primary focus.

There are often long discussions about one specific note – one that comes to mind went something like this:

“I think this second theme has to come from the first theme as if it always existed – the first ends like you are in a volcano which has erupted, but before anything settles, you can see the shape and hear the second theme through the smoke – it was there the whole time but you could not hear it because of the cacophony of the volcano”.  I love the language that is used, the care and thought which every member invests in every turn of a phrase. This quartet lives this music and is never satisfied until all members agree exactly with the group vision.

I am burned out and we haven’t even really begun yet. I am sitting on the couch, Jason made me scrambled eggs and toast, and both girls are jumping on me. In one hour I leave for the concert. Oh dear.

I am nervous, excited, exhausted, and I can’t even think straight. But I know this is the thing I am supposed to be doing, and that this crazy journey is and will be the journey of a lifetime for me and my family.

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  • The gepflegte Langeweile continues…
    If a house concert is the volcano, how will we cope with the Union College Chapel in Schenectady?
    [redacted: abusive material]

    • The video content of your comment was irrelevant and unacceptable. Please stay within the site rules.

  • Congratulation to Anthea Kreston for being excepted to be member of successful quartet.
    But it required so much sacrifice from her family that I see a lot of discontent in her family in the future.
    Everybody serve her career. Concert musician career’s not for everyone, especially for women with young children. Something have to give.

  • I’m just so sad to see how frustrated, jealous and stupid all these people can be! Why couldn’t you just be happy for such a fantastic woman who has the talent, the character and the courage needed to live a full life, successfully combining a brilliant concert activity and a happy family time? You should be happy for her and thankful that she still finds the time to share a bit of this passionating insight of her life with us! Or at least show some respect, shut up and keep your frustration for yourself! Thank you Anthea! I’m sure the quartet will blossom with you and your family will have an amazing new life in this fantastic city!

  • Thank you for letting us peek into your world! It is thrilling to hear about the upcoming concerts and the personal growth that comes with them. Very inspiring and uplifting!

  • I’m sure the quartet colleagues are inspired, uplifted, thrilled, excited etc. to read that
    “I am burned out and we haven’t even really begun yet.”

    • A more extensive quote:

      “I am burned out and we haven’t even really begun yet. I am sitting on the couch, Jason made me scrambled eggs and toast, and both girls are jumping on me. In one hour I leave for the concert. Oh dear.

      “I am nervous, excited, exhausted, and I can’t even think straight. But I know this is the thing I am supposed to be doing, and that this crazy journey is and will be the journey of a lifetime for me and my family.”

      It doesn’t sound like she means what you seem to be implying she means.

  • The honesty and directness of these posts is refreshing. So different from the staid and “glamorous” look we often get of successful musicians’ lives. I wish them all great success and I can only imagine that the clarity, passion and straight-forwardness of these posts is reflected in the quartet’s work and performance. Bravo!

    • That is true…. where the outside images of performers mostly present a calm efficiency, the inside of successful musicians’ life is a boiling pot of conflicting forces and quick, tricky decisions. If music life were slower and less pressured, musicians would have much more opportunity for slower reflection.

      One of the complaints of modern performing is that it is technically very good, but lacking depth and personality. No doubt this is related to the ‘modern’ tempo of having to deal with pressures which were entirely absent from the times when the bulk of the repertoire was written. If this gap widens, in the end interpretation will entirely disappear from performance.

  • Congrats on your first concert, Anthea! Thank you for enduring the gepflegte Langeweile of the negative comments and continuing to share your experiences with us. You are a wonderful role model for future generations of female musicians!

  • I feel like such a jerk. I will stop being so negative. I am, I guess, just incredibly shallow and jealous. I wish I were a better musician and I am taking this out on Anthea and this post. I am going to start therapy tomorrow to work through these issues and also start lessons again. Maybe I can study with Anthea – I have heard that she is a wonderful teacher as well as incredible performer! Here’s to turning over a new leaf for me. I can be a better person, I know I can!

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