From our diarist Anthea Kreston:
I am resting up between rehearsal and concert – snuggled into a comfortable bed, fluffy white duvet atop, knobby chunky blanket covering my feet. We have returned to the private castle in Brussels, owned by our Quartet tax man, a hearty and happy man who loves classical music and a home filled with people. We stay down the road in an old estate – the castle is too busy with preparations for tonight’s concert and after-party (which is held in the Rathskeller – a maze of interconnected rooms, bars, eating nooks, wine cellar and and original well for the castle grounds, covered in rough-hewn boards and festooned with candles and winter boughs and berries). He loves to cook – the front door is invitingly wide open as we arrive, crossing the moat with instruments in hand, dazzled by the candles in every window, the moat lit from within by large clear lights, schools of fish lazily meandering. The host can barely contain himself with glee – he burst out of the castle and ran along the bridge, hugging and waving – our hugs interspersed with little jumps of joy.
The hostess hands us glasses of champagne as we shed our coats, introductions are made to the other members of the dining party. Tonight we met an instrument dealer – he had brought a Stradivarius for me to try – he is the father of violinist David Garrett. I was seated next to him, and as he began to speak, I quickly inserted a caveat – he happened to be sitting next to someone (me) who knows very very little about violins and makers. I could already tell I was going to be completely lost, so I thought, better to give full disclosure here. I said – “I am from Chicago, where we drink beer from cans and yell at huge tv screens featuring men pulverizing each other in football, and I bought my daughter’s pink violin on eBay”. That was a close one.
The dinner was magnificent – beyond the row of differently-shaped stemware, myriad plates, and an intimidating number of silverware; gleaming silver vessels, baskets of breads, bouquets of white roses created a savory hedge between the sides of the table, itself a work of art with inlays of different types of wood. Here I was awash in my fresh German language – sportily trying to hold my own with my broken sentences, all improperly pronounced. But I did it. Course after course was served, with accompanying wine. When the party finally came to an end, and my head hit the pillow, I fell into a deep sleep which lasted until minutes before our ride came to bring us to another resplendent meal – a breakfast with scrambled eggs (made with fresh herbs and truffle), homemade jams, and a cheese that made me melt. Our host is an accomplished chef (as well as an experienced seaman), and all food which crossed our lips was expertly prepared by his own hand. This morning, I was witness to the entire process of the amazing eggs – from the browning of the butter to the final delivery into the oven-warmed serving platter.
Our rehearsal was between this breakfast and an equally decadent lunch, which I am now planning on sleeping off a bit off. (Whoops that was a funny sentence). The concert is tonight – we are making our way through our new program in preparation for our touring which begins this week. These first tries, these house-concerts, are a chance for us to see what worked, what didn’t, and to find our combined freedom and inspiration. What happens behind closed doors is only the shell of what will happen on-stage – our hearts racing, our instincts finely balanced with rigorous control and extreme detail.
So – a little rest, and off to the starting line. And what a race it will be!