From our diarist, Anthea Kreston:
The weeks are a blur. I get disoriented by the waves of intense work and stillness. Since Milan last week, we have played in Arnhem (a wonderful town an hour outside of Amsterdam), and returned to play twice at the Concertgebouw. Jason and the girls met up with me there, and we spent three fun and silly days on a houseboat together. It still floors me when I see myself in Quartet photos in front of halls, or on marquees. And to have the luxury of performing two back-to-back concerts of the same repertoire, in halls such as the Concertgebouw, is miraculous. How does this even happen?
We are in the midst of the sickness season – so many musicians are falling ill, playing concerts with fevers, stomach flu, coughing fits. For the past couple of months, I don’t think we have had even one, completely well performance – usually 2 or 3 of us are in different stages of the same illness, or one of us is transitioning into the next illness. Playing while stifling coughs, bringing tissue on stage to mop fevered brows, managing digestive issues, adjusting intonation to the person with ear infections. Having to wake someone who has fallen dead asleep during intermission. Just today, one of our members was forbidden to fly – ear infections which are too advanced to allow for pressurized air travel. So – instead of going to Spain, we are staying put, gathering our strength for Bremen and Frankfurt early next week, and for our upcoming tour to the USA. I am so paranoid of getting sick I won’t touch door handles, and wash my hands so much they are red and chapped. Echinacea, vitamin c, Zink, and these odd tasting intense glass vials I get from the organic pharmacy kind-of store.
Our concert repertoire, two late Mozarts, a Mendelssohn and a Bartok, are simply what we play on stage. In between the concerts, we are preparing the Shostakovich Piano Quintet (our recording for Warner begins soon – Shostakovich 5 and 7 Quartets and the Quintet with Elisabeth Leonskaja, the formidable Russian pianist). We play many times together with Liza in preparation for the recording – playing the Dvorak Piano Quintet to round out the program. Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna – and looking at her schedule right now on her website, it is a wonder to behold – concertos from Ireland to Shanghai, Schubert Sonata Cycle in Tokyo, Beethoven Sonatas in Spain – it is cram-packed. How does she do it?
In addition, our upcoming USA tour has totally different repertoire – these pieces we have to bring with us on tour in Europe, and fit them, little by little, into our sound-check rehearsals. A couple of Schumanns, Beethoven. We hit the ground running when we get there – there isn’t any buffer – Princeton, Library of Congress, Carnegie – a couple of mid-western concerts, Houston, then onto California. The concerts are back-to-back, so there will be early mornings, long travel each day, and interviews are jammed between flights and hotel.
When I saw the Emersons the other month, I prepared “emergency wellness packs” for them. Small, reusable shopping bags filled with fizzy vitamin drinks, chewable antacid, anti-stress tea, power-immunity drops, organic dark chocolate. They told me later that their tour was completely without illness – maybe thanks to those little health bags.
So – I am practising, preparing, napping, and, because of the cancellation, taking my youngest daughter (age six) on a spontaneous three-day trip to Helsinki tomorrow (with my violin). Should be fun!