To live in Berlin, I need staff

To live in Berlin, I need staff


norman lebrecht

August 25, 2017

Our diarist Anthea Kreston is hard back at work.

I am in the middle of a quartet tour, sitting on a train through glorious countryside between Frankfurt and Cologne. Tonight we play in the Augustusburg Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), built in the early 18th century, this is a traditional u-shaped palace, surrounded by magnificent gardens and a resplendent hunting lodge. Next, we head to Zeist, in central Netherlands, to play in a Moravian Church. The Moravians fled persecution in the mid 1700’s – it is one of the oldest Protestant denominations, originating in the Bohemian Reformation in the 15th century.   



My time in the United States was cathartic – I bathed nostalgically in the culture of my upbringing, and on the other hand, was hit hard by the flaws in my homeland. The disparity between rich and poor, the homelessness – these I had internalized and had become accustomed to. When I returned, seeing the city decay in parts of Philadelphia and Spokane, sidestepping sleeping bodies which began to appear on the sidewalks in the late afternoon, I was mortified in hindsight at my blindness. It is, however, ok to love something that is flawed. In fact, that is the only way that we, as humans, continue. Fight the good fight as much as possible, but also Stay Calm and Carry On.

There are things I began to look forward to, as our return to Berlin approached. The abundant, unapologetic carbohydrates, the general green-ness and fitness of the people, the amazing opportunity for my children to attend the John F Kennedy School, the passionate love of classical music, the ability to play music with incredible colleagues, to learn music which was written in these lands – to begin to connect the music I have always loved and played with location, history, architecture. Eating elaborate dinners after 10 PM, including dessert!!  

I was also able to assess the things which had led to constant low-level stress for me this past year and a half. I want to take control of my life again – I feel as if I have spent a year in a clothes dryer, desperately trying to hold onto the things I love while being thrashed about and turned on my head. I have hired my old German tutor to come once a week to help me navigate the mail, emails, and any business which overwhelms me. We have a house cleaner, and some babysitters. I have signed up for a three-week intensive German course.  We will go on more family trips to explore and get to know Europe. I want to be more aware of where I am going – the history of the buildings I am performing in. I want to take this opportunity and take advantage of it – for all of my family, each in their own way. I am calmer, wiser, more aware of my flaws, and at the same time more determined than ever to hold onto this experience and to craft it into something that will make us all more strong, more worldly, closer, and give us the tools to live life without fear and with a lighthearted curiosity to the world around us. 




  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    I love this “…give us the tools to live life without fear”

    A splendid diary !

  • Sue says:

    A very enjoyable read. Do take care in Europe; it really isn’t safe these days, no matter how idealist one is!!

    Very best wishes.

    • Scotty says:

      Where do you live, Sue?

      • Sue says:

        Sydney, Australia.

        • Scotty says:

          So your opinions about the dangers of Europe, where I live, are based on media accounts, I imagine. And I’ll bet that you’re referring to threats from terrorists and immigrants.

          Europe is a large, heavily populated, area in which the conditions that contribute to crime and terrorism vary widely.

          As someone who grew up in Chicago, and now lives in Cologne, I can testify that during my travels throughout the continent I haven’t encountered a place that feels less secure than the neighborhood in which I was raised. You do feel the presence of heavily armed police on the lookout for terrorism in places such as Brussels, Paris, and Barcelona. But violent crime is a rarity compared to many places in the States.

          I don’t think that Ms. Kreston needs to be especially vigilant.

          • AMetFan says:

            I agree, Scotty. Same living situation for me and exactly the same sentiment about living in Europe. I don’t know Australia at all, but as a born and bred citizen of the USA, Americans don’t know how pleasant life can be (in Europe).

          • Sue says:

            They have come from reading books, articles and seeing images for myself. I’m glad you think it’s safe there and I’m happy for you. Other people have been less fortunate, as was the 7y/o Australian boy mowed down and killed in Barcelona 2 weeks ago. There are plenty of such stories and if you don’t want to hear them that’s your decision. But we are even having to put up our ‘Diversity Bollards’ here in Melbourne and Sydney to protect us from our immigrant cohort from muslim countries. The Indians don’t kill and neither do the Chinese, the Brits, Americans, South Africans, New Zealanders….the list is too long to continue.

          • Sue says:

            And, as the great American poet Robert Frost wrote…”and they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”.

        • CP says:

          I have to answer this – not all Australians are so ignorant. I’m from Sydney and spend several months a year in Europe. I’ve always felt as safe in Europe as I do in Australia. In fact, per capita the homicide rate in Australia is higher than a number of European countries, including Spain. What happened in Barcelona was terrible, but one event doesn’t define a country.

  • Tama says:

    It is a lovely read but i cannot help pointing there are Philadelphias and Spokanes in Berlin and Europe too. Walk out in Mitte, Marzan, Friedrichshain and you will be sidestepping the same bodies any time of the day. Private schools, house cleaners, tutors, assistants and babysitters are not real life of common people in Berlin and Germany. Reality check is severely missing here…

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    It’s like the the Americanswho were afraid to come on holiday in London because there was a war in Yugoslavia.Widely reported at the time. Foreigners have no idea just how big Europe is.

    • Sue says:

      Yes, and that’s what’s so frightening; there is no corner these nutjobs will leave untouched.

      • AMetFan says:

        I assume you include yourself in that group? I suggest you get out and see the world. Inform yourself first-hand. Don’t rely solely on the “news”. The majority of humans are very nice folks, trust me. (Again, I can’t personally vouch for Australians, but your attitude makes me wary.)

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        What on earth are diversity bollards? Why would you need protection from Muslim immigrants? Surely all your refugees are kept on islands a long way from the mainland as your Prime Minister is so uncaring but I bet he goes to church on a Sunday, good old Christian compassion in action you should all be ashamed of yourselves.
        By the way did you have bollards protecting you fromRomanCatholics when the IRA was blowing people up? Of course not! You should not blame everyone for the actions of the few -barbarians.

    • Michael says:

      Berlin wins, it has Berghain.

  • esfir ross says:

    Congratulation on financial success in your music career-you can have a herd of servant now.