We keep changing pianists night after night

We keep changing pianists night after night


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2017

Our diarist, violinist Anthea Kreston, is struggling to remember who’s playing keyboard.


I am swimming in work. My head is above water, and I can clearly understand and execute the tasks at hand, but there is nary a moment to spare. This weekend we are in Florence for back-to-back concerts, with different repertoire (6 pieces total – Beethoven Op. 18 number 3, Bartok 3, Janacek “Kreutzer Sonata”, Rihm “In Memorial”, Schumann 3, Shostakovich 5). The surrounding weeks we are on tour and learning new repertoire (Schumann 2, Schumann Piano Quintet, Beethoven Op. 130 and Op. 133 – Grosse Fuge). We prepare the Schumann Piano Quintet with several different pianists – because of the number of concerts, no one pianist is available for all. I must remember all of the different nuances and be able to recall them instantly. There is no lack of intellectual challenge in this line of work – certainly not for the faint of heart!

Rehearsals are intense and packed to the gills with building new repertoire and refreshing old pieces.  My arm is exhausted, and I use every minute of the day to study scores and wrap my fingers around the new notes. I wake at 6 to get breakfast ready and clothes set out for the girls – Jason will often find me in the kitchen, practice mute on, working on a passage while watching the oatmeal and coffee. Then, in the evenings, I sit and work until midnight or later. In addition, our semester at the University of the Arts in Berlin is wrapping up – our 40-some chamber ensembles are performing in concerts – the emergency coachings and dress-rehearsals find me bouncing back and forth to school.

This month we are playing in Paris, London, Florence, Hamburg, Brussels, Munich, Berlin and Vienna.  It is like a dream to be able to play these magnificent halls, and to commit deeply to the core repertoire.  

Jason and the girls come with me to Florence – we will have 3 days in a lovely apartment – and I am looking forward to the Uffitzi and some wonderful meals. I go directly to Brussels after Italy, to teach at Queen Elizabeth’s Music Chapel, where my quartet is the master teachers for chamber music. 

Despite my busyness, I am finding time to be with family – yesterday I helped my 5 year old with her “show and tell” presentation – her chosen topic was her 5 favorite animals.  As we bundled up this morning (I take her on the back of my bike, and the continue on to rehearsal), I put on my backpack and sling my violin over my shoulder. She carries her poster, and also decides to bring her huge stuffed rabbit to demonstrate the proper way to pet a bunny to her class. We strap everything onto the bike, and with snow gently falling, head to our respective places of work. Just another day in Berlin!


  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    Here is the London performance, at the Wigmore


    Such a shame Maria João Pires is indisposed.

  • Myrtar says:

    “practice mute on, working on a passage while watching the oatmeal and coffee.” – it’s best to practice 5 minutes fully focused on what you’re doing, that 30 minutes being distracted. Quality over quantity.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Pianist Charles Rosen used to read a roman or something else when rehearsing some purely “mechanical” passages.

    • Bruce says:

      Oatmeal and coffee don’t require constant vigilance. You glance over every once in awhile to make sure nothing’s burning. Easy to be super focused for 5 minutes at a time as you suggest.

  • Bruce says:

    What a crazy wonderful life! Try to get some sleep!

  • Anthea kreston says:

    Heading home from Florence now – what fun we had! Uffizi, grand market, private kids tour to the palace….and gelato. Lots of gelato.

  • Tom says:

    I am exhausted reading the experience of your daily life in the fast track. What a glorious and creative time.
    Much love, tom