I’m wearing the vintage dress I was given by a grateful concertgoermain
From our string quartet diarist, Anthea Kreston:
It always feels like a month has passed between my weekly writings and, as I start to write, it is as if I could pick from a fistful of events which have occurred in these past seven, long days. Last Friday I played a Quartet house concert (our third time at this wrap-around penthouse apartment/art gallery off of Kurfürstendamm) – our first run-through of a program which, at the time, seemed impossibly fresh, but now, six days later, falls quite neatly into the hands – my rests where I readjust my glasses are set, my waves of freedom and constriction becoming easily anticipated.
This house-concert was, as usual, packed to the gills with the “who’s-who” of Berlin – and again, I found myself thankful that I have a bubble of ignorance around me – after the concert I thought I heard mention of many celebrities present – from politics to media to music – and I was glad to be once again oblivious. But, as I checked my tuning for a final time, I couldn’t help but to recognize the silhouette of Daniel Hope’s seemingly perfectly but casually coiffed, muted carrot-colored hair – how many people in the world can be recognized by only the back of their head – no need for even a peek of a nose or turn of the lip? Later, in our green room, I was charmed by his relaxed nature, his attention to his little, wonderful family.
My guests this concert were my old dear friend from Curtis and her +1, RW2013 and his +1, and my german tutor Ramón, whose larger than life personality doesn’t even warrant a +1. How nice to look out and see my motley crew of friends, and to huddle with them after the concert over an incredible meal, on the rounded, red velvet couch, lit from above by a candle-lit chandelier.
Normally I wear, in concert, comfortable black slacks, a black top with some kind of style, and the same black flats I have worn for every concert for the past two years. Oh sure, I have worn the sparkly ball gown now and again, for those extraordinary occasions, but I prefer comfort over dazzle.
But that night, because it was a house concert, I donned my favorite dress – a tea-length vintage party dress from the 40’s – hand-made from a bold pattern of black, red and white chickens, with criss-cross fly-away built-in cape, and black velvet details. This dress was given to me back-stage, a number of years ago, by a loyal concert-goer. She came to introduce herself back-stage, saying she had heard me play several times, and that she was just going through a box of her mother’s things. She gave me the dress, with old drink stains on it, cigarette burns – a story within a dress – saying it was her mother’s favorite party dress, and she thought it would fit me perfectly. And it did – it is one of only a handful of items which made it into the suitcase for our move here, two years ago.
The next morning, Jason and I boarded a train to NW Germany for a duo concert – the girls well-in-hand with an overnight sitter. What fun it always is to travel with Jason – we shared a romantic picnic in the train, and as I listened to him perform his Bach Suite in the concert, I was awash in memories of these past 20 years – our meeting in the cafeteria in Aspen as students, all of the adventures we have shared. Playing the Kodaly Duo, I couldn’t even possibly remember how many times we have played together – we are like a matching pair of gloves.
Since that time, a concert in Brussels (accompanied by a private meal in a 17th century farmhouse), a concert in Paris – packed hall as usual, and a big, boisterous dinner after, with students (Hermès and Arod quartets, Sora Trio) and friends. There is nothing as fun as an inter-generational, post-concert meal. And to be the older, teacher part – an unexpected pleasure. I nipped back home for 19 hours, enough time to see my family, begin rehearsal for a piano trio concert with Jason and the incredible French pianist Amandine Savary, and now my plane is landing in Vienna, where we have two nights of back-to-back concerts in the beautiful Konzerthaus.
On Saturday I take an early flight to Munich to see my teachers, the Emerson Quartet, in concert with Kissin. And after, once again I will be at a long table, sharing stories and drinks with another inter-generational gathering of musicians, this time as a bright-eyed student. All in a week’s work!
I like this ongoing report of a musician’s life… you never hear that elsewhere! And personal assistants, don’t they have interesting lives? Here we go: I woke up early this morning because of some quarrel again going-on at the end of the corridor, the boss and his wife again, and looking on my alarm clock it was only 09:20. A quick look from the window reassured me that the refugees were busy again, this time with collecting the branches which had fallen off during the night. In the distance I saw the horses being mended and their breath in the cool morning air, so everybody seemed to be busy already and I quickly dressed and ran down to the staff dining room for breakfast. What did I have? Only some brioches were left, other staff had already finished. The carelessness here is breathtaking. At the office the boss was delving in his papers, grumbling about his maltreatment, and I was instructed to make further calls on orchestras who had forcefully rejected our proposals, preferring the flashy nonsense which is so much more contemporary… I wonder: why doesn’t he write more engaging stuff? It doesn’t have to be serious all the time, endless repetitions of Beethoven 5 isn’t serious either, and audiences forget anyway on leaving the hall, so why bother? But I have to keep an eye on my promotion and my well-meaning remarks on Boulez’ value last week did not go down very well so I have to be carefull. My dress was a bit crumbled, having been too hasty, but the new hairdo seemed to work well – he looked at it longer than usual with the puzzled look I’ve come to appreciate dearly. Then these calls! They get on my nerves, nobody is ever there. Either they’re too busy or they see it’s me again and leave the thing untouched. Interrupted by the vacuum cleaner, reminding me of my fond memories of the concerts in London when Xenakis came over and had his preconcert talk, unforgettable. Time goes so fast! But now I’ve to explain why I took this job at all. It’s this…. [to be continued]
Oh, Sally, please don’t leave us hanging!
John – well done! I guess you can tell that I have been reading period fiction lately – just finished the Essex Serpent and am in the middle of The Miniaturist. Have a great week!
I have title to this diary from P.Almodavar movie.”Memoirs of woman on the verge of nervous breakdown”
Sorry – haha. Just in a drippy silly mood.
Nice, interesting writing. Keep it coming, please.
Before I discovered classical music, I had a miserable life, with all kinds of awful middleclass jobs, which sapped all the life out of me. Once I worked at a toilet paper factory,winding the paper onto the small cardboard tubes, which was so boring that I sometimes scrabbled offensive messages onto the paper. One time I wrote: ‘Help. I am only 11 years and forced to work at a toilet paper factory’. That went wrong, the police raided the place and I was fired. Then a friend took me to a concert….. [cont.]
Poor Scheherez…excuse me…poor Sally, toiling in the toilet paper factory!
So then, the concert?
I am reminded of your red dress you wore at Carnegie with your trio performing after the Issac stern workshop. The dress, a red flowing gown, was copied from a Flemish painting we saw with you in Hartford. Drawn, pattern made, cut and sewn by you. When you came on stage to a full house, the air left the hall. You could have received a standing ovation without playing a note. Do you still have the dress. It’s historic. Should be at the Met Museum at RL wing.
…. At this concert, I had my first revelation of what classical music can do. It was the London Sinfonietta with Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, Boulez and another one I can’t remember but who was the best of all! Yes, now I understood that people wanted to get immersed time and again by live concerts, and that their CD collection just wasn’t enough. All the misery of life was there to be shared, and to have my own experiences thus stylized and shared… a real wow moment and it brought tears to my eyes. All my inner conflicts, frustrations, loneliness, and what have you, it was all there in the music and I felt so strongly confirmed and vindicated, yes it was me, me me me and I was not crazy to find life so shit and so alienatingt! So, from that moment onwards I decided to find a job in music life, thinking of the terrible recent job helping-out a civil servant administering advice to stupid immigrants with there multi number folios of official forms. But then…..
This was my PA, careless & a bit intrusive as always. She listens too much to music, I fear.
I hope you won’t stifle Sally. After all her previous hardship, she was just just getting to the best part, don’t you think?
True… her tenure here has been a liberation, emancipation, compensation, absolution, but sometimes the environment suffers a bit, as is often the case with emancipations.
I must say I’m confused by this. She’s a terrific writer though, breath of fresh air.
By the way, we are waiting in great anticipation, to the announcement of a baby kissin on its way from the newly weds. Any sighting of the new wife and a possible tummy extension??
Hi Tom –
Yes I think the dress made it – I have one bag of things which have emotional ties. I remember finding the golden lace for the bottom in a thrift store and sewing it around the skirt. That was the de Hooch exhibit – and the skirt had so much dark crushed red silk that I found bundled in a store – I used every scrap. I saw Mrs. Kissen in a very flowing dress back stage – i couldn’t see a bump, but it certainly could have been there….
So enjoyable as always Anthea. Unfortunately Slipped Disc has stopping coming into my email feed again … happens too often and so I have to go hunting for you every week! But always worth the read – I feel like I have a much better appreciation of what goes into the performances of traveling quartets and other groups. All contributes to a greater appreciation of the music.
seven and a half years, and I still hear your voice and see you in my mind’s eye, what a gift to have had time with you! dead serious, totally zany, straight as an arrow. i am practicing the octave b’s in the slow movement of Dvorak 105 and remembering you telling me about memorizing every single sensation in a shift. love the writing!