Inside our first string quartet fight

Inside our first string quartet fight


norman lebrecht

July 22, 2016

Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Artemis Quartet, takes us every week behind the scenes of her transition from smalltown America to Weltstadt Berlin, from quiet to hectic, from piano trio to string quartet. Here’s her latest instalment.

I have finally had a “boring” week. Well – not boring for me, actually, but nothing spectacularly strange, upsetting, or life-changing has happened – which has bizarrely become de rigueur for me these past 5 months. We spent three magical days in Venice with the girls, had a very long and exhausting train trip back to Berlin, and have been alternately lounging around and taking care of an endless “to do” list in Berlin – from finalizing our car purchase to having our bikes repaired.

At times in these past 5 months I have had such busy weeks that I wrote extra diary entries. I just write on my phone, in “notepad” and have a handful of entries that I never submitted. Unless something miraculous happens between now (1 am on Friday morning) and breakfast, I will now bore you completely with an old text that I sent to the quartet in early April after a rehearsal of the second movement of Beethoven Op. 59 #1.

My Possibly Insane Thoughts on Beethoven Second Movement

Beethoven thoughts, second movement.

I have the same general thought as our Mozart – pick clearer characters, have a more solid tempo and less teeny fancy finesse things (or keep them but make sure they are incorporated into the line – sometimes they distract and have a little “side show” and then I am lost in terms of character).

I would like to have a more solid tempo and more solid piano sound, and make sure the melody takes total control (example 39-49 and 275-85).  Could we make m 27 snappier with the 32nd note (same in similar places later)

And here goes – can we make a plan for our pp sounds and separate the character of these?  There are (I think) 4 pp character places and a handful of “specialty” pp’s. Stay with me here – unless you think (possibly correctly) that I am totally insane.

– Clean and straight-forward, contrast 1 note melodies with melodies that have lots of character and some shape (1-12,68-87,304-319,420-442 (has pp nestled))

– Most stagnant – sustain line and long notes (54-58,290-294)

– Softest of the entire movement and fuzzy (62-8,298-303)

– No-nonsense, just clear and rhythmic and just a passing motive (99-101,151-3,335-7,390-2)

– Specialty” pp – 177-83, beautiful and airy, 213-30 – enjoy the shapes and interplay, 454-end final miniature dance

The result of this text was positive – and also led to our first “quartet fight”.  They asked me to lead them through a rehearsal and explain the notes, which I did. Strong words were exchanged.  I don’t like conflict, and was a bit shaken after, but they all reassured me – we must speak our minds – we can’t hold anything back. This is the only way we can find a group truth. Hold nothing back and we will become stronger. I don’t quite have the swing of this yet, but I am working on it.


artemis quartet2

N.B. This diary has been so good for me – I never anticipated liking a weekly writing assignment, or in fact being any good at it (I wish now that I had taken a writing course somewhere along the line).  I really like writing – I can’t believe that something like this has become such an important part of my life, something I am proud of, and something that helps me process my week – which can often be filled with overwhelming events. And – I am always surprised when people come to me after concerts and tell me that they read this. I don’t even want to know about that – the only way this can work is being able to block out any feelings of having to please others, or to be “good enough” at it.


  • Bruce says:

    Wonderful, again.

  • Intrigued says:

    Yes she is insane. This is bullshit.

  • Simon Evnine says:

    I look forward to these wonderful posts by Ms K.

    Please keep them coming !