Anthea Kreston, our weekly diarist, is having a normality hiatus in her new life in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet.


It has been eight months, and in every way life has become more regular. Regular wake-up time, regular oatmeal for breakfast, regular quartet rehearsal schedule, regular bedtime. One of the things that I knew was coming was a “regular” feeling in quartet. It certainly isn’t regular in a “regular” way – but after eight months of observing and trying to absorb and integrate, I have begun to insert myself into the mix. Not completely, but a little at a time. I still strongly believe that it is I who must fit into the sound, philosophy and technique of this incredible group of musicians. It is not my place to change this group – it is my pleasure to learn from them, become them. At the same time, I know they like the way I play – and I can see that we are reaching out towards one another – creating something new.

I have always enjoyed taking criticism and comments and doing everything in my power, regardless of whether or not I agree, to try to make that idea or suggestion even better than the person could have imagined. I learned to be endlessly resilient from my years with Isaac Stern. His criticism was intense, ruthless, unkind, relentless, piercing, and always true. That was the thing – the truth of it would cut away the natural instinct to disagree – and because it was true, I wanted to be able to do it.

Because of my recent study of the members of the Artemis, and the frequency and high-expectations of performance, I have entered a kind of “golden age”.  I have had four golden ages before – times where all things aligned and intense growth happened. The first was when I was 12.  I was in a practice zone, a technique explosion and a new complete emotional commitment. It was during this time that I went on vacation with my best friend’s family, and woke up every morning at 5 am, practicing in the bathroom with my hotel mute for 4 hours before the family roused. I was addicted.

It has taken me by surprise that I would be capable of having another golden age – my last one was around 10 years ago when Trio was in the flurry of concerts and repertoire expansion. How wonderful to feel confident, powerful, vulnerable and expressive. Ideas and emotions flow and I am beginning to integrate the wide range of new techniques and performance practices that the Artemis has developed over the past 27 years – things which make them unique and easily recognisable in recordings and performance. In the era when different performers sound very similar in concert and recording (people thing this may be due to the increasingly high standards of perfection in classical music), I am proud to find myself in a group which has a specific sound. And I want to be part of it.

The week we got a great review – the reviews recently have all been fantastic.  I know I shouldn’t care. But still. This week they said something like “The Artemis is back at the top of their game – again amongst the greatest living string quartets – as good (or possibly even better) than they have ever been. And, they got there much quicker than any of us could have imagined.” Here we go!

artemis play

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf changed American theatre forever in 1962.

The playwright, refusing to explaining his work, said only that it is about ‘how we practice identity or lack of identity.’

Of one play, Tiny Alice, he said ‘I had thoughts of grand opera while writing it.’

Edward Albee died on Friday in East Hampton.


The Korean violinist has cancelled next month’s UK appearances after suffering a swollen finger.

Her comeback recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas on the Warner label will have to launch without her.

kyung wha chung rfh 2014

The French bass-baritone Jean-Philippe Lafont has been injured in a fall while singing the role of Sacristan in the general rehearsal of the Paris Opera production of Tosca.

He has been invalided out of the entire run.

Unlike star performers, he will not be paid for the rehearsals he has attended.

Lafont, 65, is replaced by Francis Budziak.

On social media, he said it was a ‘terrible shock… we came very close to catastrophe’. But he has been hugely encouraged by messages of support from across the singing profession.

We wish him a rapid recovery.



Daniela Shemer, an Israeli cellist living in Frankfurt, is a player in the orchestra which is drawn from several sides of the blood-stained Mideast kaleidoscope.

In the new issue of her monthly online magazine, Mount Dela, Daniela shares her experiences in the ensemble.


Daniela Shemer 2013




Not all discussions are political. The WEDO works in a very particular format – it began as a youth orchestra but matured together with its musicians. Musically speaking, it grew into a professional orchestra. This positive development keeps raising questions regarding the future of the entire project. Barenboim often opens these for discussion: how do we accept new and younger musicians without sacrificing the level we have achieved? How do we make it possible for those of us who are members in other orchestras to keep participating in the Divan’s projects? These questions among others, address logistic as well as ideological issues to which various solutions were suggested over the years.

When it comes to discussing, be it on political, social or musical topics – the talks do not end with the official discussions which are timed into our schedules. This is only where they begin. In fact, the most interesting talks happen after official meetings and in between – while eating, drinking, smoking and sight-seeing. That is when the true Barenboim-Said vision comes to life: Arabs and Israelis exchange ideas, share stories, collaborate and create brave friendships.

One of the best communal inventions of the WEDO is a ceremony which we conduct every time we go on a charter flight. I do not know how old this tradition is or how it began, but every time it happens I seriously think of world peace. Right after take-off, while the flight attendant begins the flight safety demonstration, we begin our own little ritual. It includes taking off one shoe and holding on to its laces from the plane’s ceiling (demonstrating the use of an oxygen mask); creating as much noise as possible with the metal buckle of the security belt (practicing correct operation); and finally, a rather sophisticated hand-choreography (assisting the flight attendant with the marking of the plain’s doors). If you ever wanted to see Arabs and Israelis cooperate perfectly in tune – you would have to join one of the WEDO’s private flights.

Read on here.

barenboim w-e diwan berlin

1 Brazil Symphony Orchestra

– called off the rest of the season for lack of funds

2 Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

– musicians, fighting pay cuts, went on strike

3 Filarmonica de Gran Canarias

– musicians voted 68-14 to strike. Local government says the orch will be shut down.


Further trouble spots:

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Symphony are out of contract. Both have extended talks deadline for a couple of weeks. No resolution in sight.

Pacific Symphony is out of contract and not talking.


A 1993 documentary about life in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

It rains a lot.

Click here to watch.


With a terrific guest appearance by Peter Donohoe.