This is how I rest in bed with a recital coming up on Sunday

Our diarist Anthea Kreston was rushed into hospital two weeks ago for surgery. Everyone has told her she needs bed rest. But she’s an American in Berlin, where the world stands still for no-one. So….

It has been 13 days since my surprise surgery. I have tried to stay in bed, and cancelled as many things as I possibly could, but the Beethoven Sonata Cycle is in 2 days, and of all things, I must do this. For several reasons – one is because I need to form my own identity here – I am in a new country, in an established string quartet with a very strong identity, as an inner voice, and I have left behind all of my network – contacts, concert series, colleagues, teachers, personal musical outlets.

I know it is dangerous to be in a chamber group – they can suck your soul away, can confuse your own identity, make you question your fundamental musical ideals – and it can happen so slowly that by the time you are aware of it, it is too late to do anything. I know this from past experience.

Secondly, there are many dangers of moving to a new country (where my language skills are sub-par, to put it unbelievably mildly) and feeling isolated both emotionally and intellectually. So – I tuck little extra-musical experiences in and around my main, amazingly fulfilling and challenging Quartet life.

I remember once, going to a recital by one of my former teachers – a member of a quartet. He was an incredible player, and had an illustrious career as a quartet musician. His recital was lovely, if a bit stiff and thoughtful – as if he were analyzing every move he made, and realizing how much it didn’t live up to his potential. I went backstage afterwards to congratulate him, and after the room cleared he broke down, sobbing in my arms. He hated himself and his performance – he wondered what had happened to him – he used to be so confident, carefree – he used to be able to enjoy himself. He was crushed, like the shell of a man. What I had always seen – a bigger-than-life, brilliant player, who travelled the world, was a hollow vessel.

So – I have taken a step back in my recovery – I had to go back to the hospital and have them reopen the incision, drain the cavity. I have been in bed now for 4 days – the shooting pains are less frequent, and I have to change my dressings less often. I know that I won’t be my best at this concert, but I need to do it, for myself, and for my emotional health. I was pretty down a couple of days ago, wondering how I was going to be able to do it – to stand without being dizzy, to concentrate and have the vigilant control necessary for Beethoven. Jason delivered my violin into my sickbed, and a chart with 7 boxes. He said, all you have to do is play for 15 minutes, 7 times a day, sitting up in bed. Then you will be fine. The first day I managed 3 boxes, and now I am up to 6. I won’t compromise my health, but I must keep the balance between emotional and physical health, and I know I can do it.


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  • Agree with Bruce; if the show must go on, play sitting down! It may help prevent you from moving about in ways that would be detrimental to your recovery. Break a leg, only in the metaphorical sense please, and I hope you are able to enjoy the performance.

  • You are really brave and a genuine musician. All the very best for your new life in Berlin and toi toi toi for the concert!

  • You should get a substitute and concentrate on health recovery instead. That would be the better solution for both you and the audience.
    Martha Argerich also cancel when she is not feeling 100% alright.

      • Try to act as her guardian angel is without doubt a gentlemanesque noble deed. A spark of hope or fantasy will also do good to an old man’s health. However, maybe she is unmarried, but already has children. This is something you can’t just ignore.

        In the end of the day, wasn’t it you the person who forbade me reading boring posts? Do you still remember? Furthermore, I also want to help Kreston, with my whole heart, just with different approach as yours. So we are actually on the same boot. There is no need to dispute.

          • You can either suppress the troll in a tyrannic way, i.e. quietly delete and block. Or you go the more gentleman way and just ask him to stop.
            But you did both, which is kinda hypocritical.
            Why not just let the audience make their own judgement. They are all grown-up and don’t need a baby-sitter, right?

        • I didn’t forbid you, I suggested you might want to consider. Not the same thing.

          I asked if you had read this post because you seemed to disregard the part where she said she needed to play this recital, for her own sake.

          Anthea can take care of herself just fine. She doesn’t need me to be her white knight to provide protection from you 🙂

          Also, I’m sure she is a lovely person (we almost met when she was in my city), but your “spark of hope and fantasy” for an “old gentleman” is in your own imagination.

  • Think of your family, take this as a warning sign and reduce your workload. It is not a joking matter. You could end up incapacitated or worse.

    • She won’t hear your sincere and helpful advice until she ends up incapacitated. It seems that people here are spoiled with hymn of praise. They can’t stand even the slightest disharmony.

      It’s kinda sad, coz true artists and musicians often suffered a lot during their life time, had to undergo numerous harsh and partially unjustified critics. Just think of Schumann, Bruckner, Mahler and Hans Rott etc. On the other hand, “performing artists” nowadays just sit on the wealth of these true creators and harvest all the flowers and applause. The core repertoire of the so-called classical music were all written at least 100 years ago.

  • sending best wishes from the states… do what you need to do.. sit if you must… no one will care. the music will pull you thru… and then some

  • What a true tragedy you have to go through.
    I sincerely hope it all ges well, as I think it has to be you that plays these Beethoven sonatas, nobody else will do and postponing would be terrible.

  • Toi toi toi Anthea! Nell’ano di balena!

    (someone taught me that as an alternative to ‘in bocca al lupo’ — no idea if it’s legit 😀 )

  • Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing! It is such a helpful piece for me, who has overcommitted to a student ensemble, resulting in massive artistic identity issues after its recent split. Your article gives me hope that I can find a way over time.

    Congratulations for your Beethoven concert despite all obstacles! I wish you a fast recovery!

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