Is playing and teaching at the same festival just a bow too far?

Is playing and teaching at the same festival just a bow too far?


norman lebrecht

July 09, 2017

From our weekly diarist, violinist Anthea Kreston:

We are in the car on the way to Venice for the weekend – we are in the middle of our two weeks in the northern part of Italy, playing trio concerts and teaching at a festival in a small town in the Dolomites. In the car are my husband and our two daughters (age 5 and 7), and squeezed in-between, our pianist, Amy Yang.  

Rehearsals are short and frequent – a movement of Brahms crammed between teaching students (a nice international crowd from age 10-young professionals). We are performing every night, either trio or mixed faculty concerts. The contrast of rehearsal style is stark – compared to the detailed, intense quartet rehearsals I have become accustomed to this past year. This translates into concerts which are quite carefree – the joints in the music are acknowledged, structure is secure, voicing is decided, and each member of the ensemble is in charge of guiding the flow and emotional content of their designated phrases – we all go with the flow. 

Every time I agree to come to a festival where I do double duty – teaching and performing – I have a heavy wave of regret on the second day. “Why on earth did I agree to do this?  This is insane – both my teaching and performing are compromised, I am exhausted, the outings I planned with my family are put off and off – let me please remember to say “no” next time anyone asks me to do this!!”

But then, around day 4, I start to get used to it.  My daughters have made friends, have found all the nooks and crannies of the festival building, enjoy their daily gelato outings, staying up really late, going to the grocery store, playing in the river. I realize that this is the way memories are made. I often think of my early memories of camps – the ice cream, riding my first skateboard, my teacher’s big hair, the swimming pool. 

This week, my daughters were in their first quartet – with 2 of my old students from Oregon. We met every day – we played rhythm games with fly swatters, took turns being the orchestra for each other’s solo pieces, and learned two quartets. They all brought fancy dresses, named their group (The Rainbow Spy Dodgers), made a big stack of handmade programs for the concert, and performed in the town hall to an appreciative audience – their feet dangling from their chairs, too little to touch the floor. 



And now – off to Venice – I play the four seasons again with the same orchestra as a couple of weeks ago (Interpreti Veneziani), and 25 of the students will come to the concert. The entire Rainbow Spy Dodgers will be together in Venice for 2 days – and our daughters are looking forward to showing them the places they discovered last year. The building of life-time memories. 



  • Bruce says:

    Yes, stride-finding definitely takes a few days… but then it’s THE MOST FUN THING 🙂

    The pictures aren’t coming through. Can you fix?

  • Anthea Kreston says:

    The pictures are so cute! I will ask….

  • Benedetto Lupo says:

    I tried to look around at Teatro La Fenice on June 4 during the Barber of Seville, just to see if I could find you and meet you, as I was right there rehearsing Ravel Concerto in G for my concert on the following day, but I could not find you. I hope that you are not suffering too much for the heat wave that we are experiencing in Italy and I also hope that, this time, the boys will give you a private space where you can relax before your performance of Four Seasons in Venice 🙂

  • Anthea kreston says:

    Benedetto! How fun – I head to rehearsal here in Venice in an hour. Thanks so much for sharing and hope to meet you before too long.
    A little hot here but not too crazy….

  • Anthea kreston says:

    Here are some thoughts I jotted down this morning – didn’t get them to Norman in time to post.

    Sounds and smells of Venice

    I managed to find a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) after all – I greatly prefer an apartment when traveling with my family – the ability to cook for ourselves and have space to stretch out is better than adjoining rooms in a hotel (especially since I have seen the inside of so many hotels this past year). Our place – a teeny three floor house close to the Accademia – down a street in which even our 5 year old can touch both sides with arms outstretched. Each floor is one room – the bottom is a kitchen and eating area, with intricate, thick mosaics patterned iron grates, in which one bumps one’s head on the huge wooden beams if you are not careful. The beams are clearly salvaged (as is everything, it seems) from old ships – notches from past cross beams, ancient chisel marks and woodworms are in clear evidence. The inside windows open to the shared courtyard, and the sounds of handmade brooms sweeping leaves wafts through the windows, mingling with the gurgle of espresso percolating and the laughter of our two daughters playing upstairs with their two friends from Oregon.

    The second floor is a bedroom and a teeny bathroom hidden behind the wardrobe. The floors are a patchwork of marbles – different designs mix together (salvaged from the floor of an old church?), and wooden stairs float to the next floor, also a bedroom, (with a mosquito netted king-sized bed). In this top floor, you can only stand if you are directly under the main beam. Two small balconies perch on the side of the room, from which a number of church spires can be seen (right now, the bells of many churches are ringing simultaneously – creating a cacophony which is mixed with the seagulls and a crying baby from another apartment across the courtyard).

    In order to enter our house, you must vault over a metal barrier, which reaches to my thigh (the girls must be lifted over). This is because of the high-water season – just down the path is the grand canal, and this area is regularly flooded.

    Last night – a torrential rain storm shook the house – we rushed to close and shutter the windows, held fast with large rusted metal bars. The lightening and thunder lit the white-washed walls as the rain came down first in clearly heard drops, then later in bucket-sized dumps. I was clearly expecting to have to wade to the kitchen today, but all was well.

    The sounds and smells of Venice – that familiar triple sound of saucer on stone counter, followed by espresso cup and then the clink of that teeny spoon – and the cool wash of air when passing a fruit and vegetable stand (there is that one smell which is the mix of all fruits and vegetables), followed by the scorching heat of an open square, then the strong smell of the fishy canals.

  • Marg says:

    I would have titled this ‘How Rainbow Spy Dodgers Make Memories” !! Last week I spent two days managing an orchestral workshop with 24 very talented kids 10 – 18yrs working with Aust Haydn Ensemble principals on a Haydn Symphony, and incorporating principles of historically nformed practice into their playing. It is really energising to be around kids who love making music and who are willing to work like trojans for two days to master the challenge.