In a string quartet, you get used to missing breakfast

Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet, is starting to get used to missing the best breakfasts in Europe.

Here I am, in my hotel room across from the Konzerthaus in Vienna, packing and eating pistachios.  It is 11:30 pm, and we leave for our flight at 6:00 am tomorrow. I am fortunate in so many ways, and one of them is to be a part of a string quartet which, in addition to a normal touring schedule, also has not one, but four different personal concert cycles.  What this means, as a musician, is that you get to return many times each year, for years, to the same hall, the same audience, the same staff, the same hotel, and (my favorite) the same amazing breakfast buffet. Our four series are in Berlin (Philharmonie), Munich (Prince Regent Theater), Amsterdam (Concertgebouw), and Vienna (Konzerthaus, in conjunction with the Belcea Quartet).

Although I have been here only 8 months, tonight was the 6th time I have had the honor of performing in this astoundingly gorgeous hall – impeccable acoustics in a large, rectangular hall decked in chandeliers with eggshell and baby blue accents on the walls. We perform two identical concerts, two nights in a row, to a packed hall. Our hotel is amazing – fluffy duvets, turn-down service, and a breakfast that runs the gamut from miso soup to roasted vegetables.  We have to leave early tomorrow – before it opens – my only regret (ok – well, I did make a strange squeak on my open E during the Haydn tonight) of this trip.  

One of the highlights of these trips is being able to see members of the legendary Alban Berg String Quartet – Valentin Erben (cello) and Günter Pichler (first violin). The Alban Berg Quartet was a major part of the Artemis’ education – they worked together intensely for years. Valentin came to the concert last night, and afterwards he was happy to share his thoughts and opinions. He also came today to hear a cello that our cellist is trying out, and a little coaching session naturally evolved – I hope we can have a proper session soon with him – what an inspiration. 

The Vienna Konzerthaus is a Concertgebouw- or Carnegie- style venue. Several different halls, often with multiple events happening simultaneously, and a vigorous and creative outreach program. Today is the third of a 4 day festival in which 24 instrument makers are making a string quartet of instruments from scratch, on which a Beethoven String Quartet will be performed upon tomorrow. 4 teams of 6 makers from all over the world are hard at work, in the grand foyer of the Konzerthaus – their communal workshop surrounded by people young and old (groups of school children during the day, concert goers at night) observing and asking questions. 

I headed to the workshop after tonight’s performance – many of the makers had been to our concert and they had invited us to come down after. There was a buzz of excitement – the top of the cello was close to being able to be fitted tonight – pizza was being delivered and I think they will be working through the night tonight. The makers showed me their stations, piles of wood shavings covered the floor, and they all asked me about my violin. I spoke about my stolen Becker violin – although it is an unusual maker in Europe they all know and respect the Becker name. I took out my old Italian violin which is on loan, and it was like a pod of sharks circling an injured walrus. They all dropped what they were doing to inspect the violin – even sliding a felt-covered light strip inside to observe the inside of the bouts. I did a YouTube live streaming interview, and stayed to answer questions of audience members. If you are interested, go to Konzerthaus.at and look for “Quartett gebaut gehört”.

anthea-violin-maker

Well – off to bed for me. Long day tomorrow!

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  • Another fascinating insight of a life as a busy musician.All those little tidbits non-musicians can only read about.
    Thank you for taking the time to blog your adventures.

    • Yes, my thoughts exactly. So fascinating. I really enjoyed hearing what you look for in an instrument, and about playing the four strads in the US. Im sorry to hear you still dont have your own violin back yet. Fingers crossed. And now, back to eating my breakfast :). ……..

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