So this week we played an ex-Soviet nuclear installation

So this week we played an ex-Soviet nuclear installation


norman lebrecht

September 11, 2016

Anthea Kreston, an American violinist in Berlin, is finding that life in the Artemis Quartet takes her to places other ensembles cannot reach.

artemis quartet3


One of the most enjoyable aspects of my position with the Artemis Quartet is traveling to beautiful or unusual locations. This week we met with our manager, and were given a list of concerts from now until 2020, which included Asia, North and South America, and extensive European destinations. What adventures await!

In addition to visiting new cities, the variety of venue is surprising.  From ultra-modern stages (I swear we played in the Death Star earlier this year) to stages steeped in history (such as Wigmore and Gewandhaus), each space has a special place in history – both as a building and as a place which has welcomed legendary performers.

This last week we spent much time in one of the most unusual concert venues I could have ever imagined. The concert hall is inside of what was once the largest military airfield in Europe. A former Soviet cold-war airfield – now home to both the largest thin-film solar plant in Europe and an auto park (including testing grounds for Audi and a race-track for sports cars). Originally built by the Soviets in the 50’s, the area was a blank spot on any map – heavily forested, secret, and impenetrable. It housed 80,000 Soviet military personnel in large flimsy beige monstrosities (the final 3 remain because they are inhabited by an endangered species of bat).  60 hangars are hidden throughout the woods – covered completely by trees and grass. It was in one of these former hangars that the Bebersee Festival is based. 4 other hangars have been reclaimed – inside are glitzy showrooms for Audi test cars. Directly outside of the hangars are racetracks and test driving courses, complete with built-in spraying water features and screeching brakes.  Our rehearsals were punctuated by the screeching of tires and gunning of engines.

Inside these hangars, until the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1994, were bombers, transporters, helicopters, fighters, and even a unit with nuclear tasking, able to bomb West Germany.  It was in this space that our quartet performed the Shostakovich 5th String Quartet.  Music and history intermingle in a tangible way here, making the mind race and heart pound during performance.

Jason and I stayed the rest of the week to play mixed chamber music – and we met new wonderful, funny, interesting friends and musicians. We all stayed together at a grand old hotel on a lake – our girls enjoying swimming and exploring the woods and watching cars race with the babysitter as Jason and I rehearsed. After-concert meals on the terrace with large steins of beer and traditional German food rounded out our last week of our first summer in Germany.

Tomorrow the Quartet plays a benefit concert for the Refugee Music Program in Berlin. 300,000 new refugees are expected in Berlin alone this year. So glad we can extend a musical hand to them.