What to do in Germany when you turn up in unmatched shoes…

The weekly tour-whirl diary of Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet:

artemis-quartet2

As I wait for my train to Bremen, in the midst of a heavy 12 days of touring, I am reflecting on my transition into this new country, this new life, this new work. Now we have been here for 10 months, and what was once a constant feeling of bewilderment has transformed, in fits and starts, into a new sensation. Not comfort, not yet, but  I feel my stride on these wide, cold sidewalks is longer, more confident, my shoulders sit back on the bone more, my head is up and I can take in the world, instead of it taking me in. 

Our new repertoire is well-in-hand – I love our take on Haydn – strong, straight-forward, but with moments of surprising flexibility and fragility. Each member takes their place on the stage, four strong personalities, but eager to inspire one another, allow one another to take flight.

Our new series in Munich, in the glorious Prince Regent Theater (a 1,100 seat hall, with a wide generous arch of seats, delicately painted ceiling, and golden columns festooned with statuary) came off with a bang, with a full hall and great review. The following night, in Berlin, we were honored with the German Record Critics’ Award “Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik”, an award given solely by music critics, writers, editors and musicologists, which was delivered on-stage after intermission. 

Following the concert (and champagne reception) I headed over to the Gendarmenmarkt, where old friends of mine from St Paul Chamber Orchestra had just finished a concert of their own, and who had already ordered a meal for me, waiting luke-warm on a plate amongst the laughter and camaraderie of this incredible group of musicians. 

By the time I got home, my window of my brief Berlin stay had dwindled into a few short hours.  I took the sleep that I could, woke early to repack and make breakfast for the family before heading to Frankfurt for the next leg of the tour. On my arrival at my hotel, I couldn’t help but laugh as I took off my “pair” of shoes – one boot and one sneaker. There went my dream of a little nap in the hotel, as I ran quickly to buy a pair of shoes which would get me through the next 4 days. I am not sure which is more disturbing (funny?) – what my state of mind must have been when I put them on, or the fact that it took me 6 hours to notice. 

wrong-shoes

As I open to my place here, I have enjoyed reaching out and hearing of others’ transitions – whether new or old. In speaking with the inspiring and magical cellist Gary Hoffman, who is a colleague and master teacher at La Chapelle de Musique Reine Elizabeth in Brussels, I was struck by his beautiful reflections, which I will quote below.

“Hi Anthea,

I’ve been living In Paris for 26 years. I’m still Canadian/American but no doubt I see many things from a very different perspective after all this time in Europe. The transition from what it was to what it is now has happened very naturally. Of course music is based very much on what we know and feel and what we do. But after all this time, and it is something I repeat often to young musicians, my students and others, I’ve come to understand how much it has to do with what one is. And that has a great deal to do with what one has lived, the richness of personal experiences, of seeing the world in other ways, in short, the broadening of horizons and encompassing a larger scope of view. This probably more than anything has influenced my musical and, no doubt, personal development.”

Gary Hoffman

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  • I really hate to write that, but please reconsider this kind of shameless self-promoting blogging. It is not interesting at all to read what you had to breakfast and what kind of shoes you wear. Don’t you have anything better to do? This is not the way to promote a hopefully serious String Quartet. I don’t want to quote Kurt Kraus: “Wenn die Sonne der Kultur niedrig steht, werfen selbst Zwerge lange Schatten.” It’s fine that you love writing but surprise us with something substantial (e.g. music), please…

    • (a) Norman Lebrecht asked her to write this blog about her day-to-day life experiences, not as profound thoughts on the meaning of music or compositional complexity or even rehearsal technique (although there has been some of all of that as well). If you ask her to write what you want, she might consider it.

      (b) It doesn’t seem to me like she is promoting herself or her quartet — or, rather, it doesn’t feel like that’s the reason she’s writing this blog, although that may be an incidental effect. Some of us love reading about whatever she feels like writing about. (I’d never heard of the Artemis Quartet before reading about it on Slipped Disc, and I’ve never heard the group, and I’m not ever likely to because of where I live, and I’m not even that fond of string quartet music; but I still love reading about her life.)

      (c) We’ve been through all this already. There were some people who loved to apply the same criticisms you have voiced, plus some other ones, and they didn’t come out of it looking any more open-minded or sympathetic than you do.

      I would respectfully suggest that if you are not interested in Anthea Kreston’s posts, and you don’t expect to become interested, then don’t read them. Just a thought.

    • It is the range of topics, from the intensity of rehearsals, the in-depth work that goes into preparation, the “work-life balance” issues *, the daily hum-drums and ho-hums that make these posts something to look forward to each week. This is not self-serving promotion; this is much more like the reality that we never see from the “Stars” and it’s wonderful to become aware of how these all come together to shape the short moment these people appear in public on the stage. btw, don’t you think calling yourself Wolfgang Amadeus is somewhat self-aggrandising?
      * don’t try and unpack that phrase, just take it at face value

    • Actually, these blogs are not quite as insubstantial as you might suppose. To those of us who are composers it is instructive to be reminded of exactly what the humdrum daily challenges of a performer might be, as well as what brings them fulfillment – what motivates them to play at all. We do not compose for voice or a certain instrument like the violin, the composers’ motivation is to write for singers and violinists.

  • That’s all fine and I completely understand your view. (Certainly I do not read these blogs in details for the reasons I mentioned above…) I have heard alot about the Artemis Quartet in the past years but never about her before she came into the ensemble. She’s happy and excited to be in the band and that’s very fine and I wish her best of success. And if she wants to blog these kind of things, fine too. But why on this blog? She could run her own blog and see whether anyone will click her diary. When I want to read something from a musician, I prefer to learn from them (think of Furtwängler or Schnabel who had to say something). There is already too much bla-bla out there and I try to keep “my world” as clean as possible from this kind of things you don’t need to know. That’s at least my personal view. Whoever has fun reading this blog, may have another point of view. Fine too.

      • Come on. She’s an brilliant player in an excellent quartet. She lives in one of the most vibrant places in Europe. So then we get expectations. Easy as that. We have read the books from various quartet members on the inner life of quartets and know how interesting this can be. 142 words about a pair of wrong shoes is simply totally uninteresting. She can do so much better. Nobody should punch below one’s weight. That’s all.

        • You and Museart are completely (and, I suspect, willfully) missing the point of this diary. There is much to enjoy if you don’t insist on only the loftiest, most profound & abstract thoughts.

          On the other hand, if you are interested in Ms. Kreston’s loftiest and most profound thoughts, you could always ask her to write some of them down. She reads the comments and is always super nice when she responds.

          • Hi Bruce,

            where can I read about the points of this diary? Have they been defined? Am I not supposed to complain?

          • If you can find the very first post of this “diary,” or maybe it was a separate announcement by NL that the diary would be forthcoming (not sure how easy it will be to find since it’s almost a year ago now), there is a brief description from NL explaining the idea he had proposed to Ms. Kreston. As I recall, he encouraged her to write about anything she chose related to her life in music — i.e., anything related to her life. (The 2nd link below explains)

            – 10 min. later –
            I couldn’t find it, sorry. Maybe you will have better luck. But here is the announcement of her appointment http://tinyurl.com/z25prqe … and here is the earliest “diary” entry I could find http://tinyurl.com/hqfhul9. The comments for this one are typical of many of the early entries.

            Anyway, I repeat my earlier recommendation that you ask Ms. Kreston directly to write about what you want to read. As you can see from her response below, she reads these comments and is open to ideas.

    • Hello all – and thanks, Bruce, for the thought to chime in. I don’t have time to write very complex things every week, but I do now and again – analysis of Beethoven, rehearsal techniques, preparation. I am just being myself, and I guess that means that I am just a totally normal person who happens to like to play violin. I told someone that I read and respond to the comments, and they said I was crazy – but again that just shows how fresh I am to the blog world. But – by responding I have become friends with RW2013 (remember him?) and we have, even in the past week, been exchanging a lively train of emails. Please feel free to send suggestions – I am game for anything (working on an intense quartet intonation piece currently and several interviews). I can and am eager to improve, and am open to ideas – I can give it a try.

    • I happen to agree with you!! I find the writing twee and mostly rather dull. I’ve decided not to read, but there are plenty here who obviously derive pleasure from it.

      What it does confirm to me is that many classical musicians aren’t very interesting people; that they live in a bubble which is, of course, one of the consequences of that lonely profession in terms of practice time.

      • From one “not very interesting” musician to another: (Thanks, Sue!) I want to thank Anthea for her honest, open, and personal blog entries. It’s true that the life of a performer is not always glamour, fortune, and NONSTOP AGONIZING over the intention of every chord Beethoven wrote. It’s a JOB. (Sorry, Sue, and anonymous troll above!)

    • Hey Wolfgang Amadeus, your big mistake (or ideology) is your rigorous separation between celestial music (with Furtwängler as godfather) and everyday life, between entertainment (“bla-bla”) and seriosity. And for the purpose of keeping your world “clean”, you feel like telling other people how to write or not to write. (The appropriate german word is “Saubermann”).

  • OMG, the trivial concerns of lady violinists, amirite? Wolfgang, just skip this blog, read your Fürtwangler, and avoid these pesky, worldly realities that go into actual music-making–you know, musicians getting from place to place, living lives off stage, getting awards, thinking about their work, and yes, choosing concert attire.

    I’ll add that any emphasis on keeping one’s world “clean” while appealing to giants of German music is more than a little creepy.

  • Just one more vote of support for this very interesting report of life on the road. Ive enjoyed them all. Keep ’em coming

  • I look forward to Anthea Kreston’s posts and am surprised by how different each one is. They haven’t fallen into any rut, yet! Also admire how she somehow manages to balance the privacy her quartet partners must require with her straightforward approach. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be privy to her thoughts as she adjusts to the great adventure she, her family and the quartet have embarked on.

  • Anthea, keep doing what you want to do with this blog. NL gave you free rein, and there seem to be plenty like me who really enjoy hearing the so-called boring details of the so-called not-very-interesting musicians! I enjoy the balance between the ridiculous (shoes scenario) and the profound (grappling with channeling the composer). I feel like I’ve really got to see what goes on behind the scenes as it were, and that’s enhanced my enjoyment of ensembles as an audience member where I live. When the Artemis Q visits Australia, I’ll be there as one of your biggest fans!

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