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.