It’s a new world – I just bought a Baroque bow

From our diarist, Anthea Kreston:

Between the crazy Amazing Race to Wigmore last week (I almost wrote “last year”), I have played in Bremen, Berlin and France (as a part of La Belle Saison, a concert series based in Paris, which brings its artists to various venues through France and Belgium).

We landed in Paris on Saturday, right in the middle of the high point of the “Yellow Vest” fuel protests. People were in the streets – piles of tires 10 feet tall, cars and people blockading the roads, yellow-vested people circling bonfires ablaze in the middle of the streets, all seemingly with no central organization or police presence (at least along our route/s). There were, I read later, over a quarter-million protesters out that night, and all-told 400 injuries, 150 arrests and one death.

Named after the yellow visibility vests motorists are obligated to carry in their cars, protesters were outraged over the 23% hike in diesel (the most commonly used French fuel) prices over the last 12 months, and a further increase of 6.5% in January of this year was seen as a final straw. It was a grassroots effort – and this was clear as our van was stopped multiple times. These people simply had come out of their homes and blocked their “own” roundabouts, roads and highway. We couldn’t keep track of which roads were navigable – it changed from moment to moment. I was following our progress on Waze, and new red roadblocks would pop up constantly – I later found out that there were over 2,000 blockades that night. We travelled by van, because of the location of our concert, and what was supposed to be a simple route became longer and longer, our roads diminishing in size until we were relegated to driving on single-lane glorified paths through farm fields to try to find some way around/through the web of blockades.

Although we were driving an already circuitous route, we were stopped no less than 6 times – and were lucky to be accompanied by an experienced office assistant as well as a private driver. There was a lot of reversing, some swerving, and a fair amount of quiet, under-the-breath cursing in French coming from the driver’s seat. I must admit, however, that I did not feel entirely at ease – some of the blockades had a sinister feel, and voices were not always kind. Our driver (who was excellent) did manage to get us through one of the blockades, by telling them we were a group of British musicians going to play a concert. Quartet stayed silent, and after a wait of perhaps 10 minutes, they waved us through. We finally pulled into our inn after midnight – the concert the next day was in a charming old theater, and we were served a lovely, rustic lunch before our dress rehearsal. The audience was full and vibrant, and we made it back to Paris without hitch.

And so, I have some nights at home. Tomorrow I go to a violin shop in Berlin to try out some Baroque bows – and will have a lesson or two via FaceTime with a former student who has a flourishing career as a baroque violinist. It will be my first time with a baroque bow, and I can’t wait!

Then to the Twin Cities – I lived there as a teenager for two years, attending the University of Minnesota (Go Golden Gophers!) before I transferred to Curtis. I will have a chance to catch up with old friends, find my old haunts, and find new inspirations from my wonderful colleagues for the next two weeks. I have concerts with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra – the first programs with Richard Egarr, the incredible keyboardist/conductor and director of the Academy of Ancient Music.

 

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  • As someone who uses diesel fuel, I can say I understand their anger! I filled up my tank last week and it cost me €87 (that’s close to $100). We don’t have public transportation where I live. I have to use my car. I would never block circulation though, no matter how angry I feel. People are trying to get around their roadblocks and this is causing injuries. When people start losing their lives, it’s time to re-visit the tactic and find another way to be heard.

    On the other hand, I hope you found a lovely bow! I would love a Baroque bow.

  • How modest of you not to mention the triumph of your concert on home turf this week (after all the flying bow hair in the Bartok, I’m surprised you all didn’t need new bows).
    And wonderful to see Elisabeth Leonskaja patiently waiting backstage to congratulate…

  • I have no sympathy for the protesters. Fossil fuels such as diesel *should* be expensive and heavily taxed, given the serious damage they cause to local air quality and to the global environment. Yes, it raises the cost of living and of doing business, but that is a price we must accept for our gas-guzzling lifestyles.

    Chapeau to the French authorities for making tough decisions about fuel prices. Alas, the spineless British government has frozen fuel duty for yet another year (it last rose in 2010), while permitting train operators to increase regulated fares at a greater rate than wages.

    And chapeau to Ms Kreston for keeping the show going, and for not permitting vanity to preclude taking lessons from a former pupil!

    • I keep in touch with a lot of my old students – just like I do with former teachers and parents of students. What a rich web we create for each other – a lifetime relationship…..

  • Very interesting. Only a new (or better, old) bow, or also a complete Baroque violin with low bridge, no chin/shoulder rest, and especially with those wonderful gut strings that hold in tune, say, 10 minutes or so?

    Well, maybe my comment was not nice to HIP people. I know the usual argument-by-analogy, the harpsichord did not develop further to the modern piano, it would be like saying that the horse underwent a Darwinian process becoming the car. But a Baroque violin is still a violin.

    Anyway, in the coming green times maybe I’ be obliged to sell my red Ferrari, give the Money away to the WWF, and buy a horse (any color). Or a bicycle.

    Please keep us informed on your impressions.

  • We didnt get any details about the protests on our Aust TV other than the fact they were going on and a few shots of large groups of yellow vested people. It clearly was far more disruptive than I realised. And interested in your baroque bow experience. Working with an HIP ensemble (not a player) I have come to really love all the different sounds that string players can get with baroque bows and bowing style/techniques.

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