Our weekly diary by Anthea Kreston, who is leaving the Artemis Quartet:
Concerts these past two weeks have been different. The audience – packed to the gills, has a sort of tangible attention, as if they read something into not only the program (Barber Adagio – a sad farewell, Britten – looking ahead at new challenges, Death and the Maiden – signature Artemis sound and history), but also with a distinct interest in each member of the quartet. What are the four of us thinking, feeling? In Berlin and Munich, our cellist talked to the audience, thanking them for their support and love of the quartet (he has played in the Berlin Philharmonie with the quartet 45 times, and has come every year to Munich for the past 23 years). He spoke about his greatest wish fulfilled – that after 30 years, the quartet would continue.
And, after the concerts, double hand-clutching, long post-dinners, searching questions and hearty congratulations for the next phases. In Munich, an older woman who has been at every concert (I have played in the Prince Regent Theater as a member of this quartet more than 10 times), wears both her perfume and heavy family jewels with a comfort which subtly reveals a long line of aristocracy. She, without fail, invites the quartet (and any pluses who happen to be there) to the exclusive in-house restaurant, where the well-to-do eat, bathed in the warm light of a chandelier the size of a living room, hand-painted murals lining the walls. We sit along a table which seats more than 20, glasses of wine refilled by invisible staff, tasting plates appearing within moments.
This woman is so kind, and always comes to each dressing room to chat individually with the musicians. This time, she came in, and, clutching me by both arms, at the elbow, took several moments to collect herself. After some words, she stopped, head bowed, and couldn’t continue. I hugged her, and we rocked slowly for a long time, until her breath steadied. She has taken the time to get to know me these past years – always asking probing but pinpoint questions about my progress, my family and my adjustment. She is measured, but surprisingly open.
I always find myself within a seat or two of her at the long table. This time (we are always there for hours, and as the bottles empty, the questions and stories began to flow), she recounted her own personal story with this quartet. When she first met them (Munich has a specific hold on the Artemis – they were there for the ARD competition so many years ago – in some ways, the music-lovers of Munich feel responsible, or related, to the trajectory and story of this quartet), her life was different. She was a young woman – only 55 at the time – and she would host the whole quartet at her house (mother later had to sell it), and what seems like the entire audience would come over to the house after the concert (by her description of “mother” and the “house” I have a distinct impression that even the powder rooms would dwarf the largest room in my house). All of their school friends, too. It sounded like it was quite uproarious – and the Portuguese cook would make a giant pot of something, leaving on the stove, and after the guests left, the quartet and the remaining household guests would ladle straight from the pot, and gather with the unfinished bottles around the kitchen table, well into the night. In the early morning, the help would come down, and clear the party debris (she gestured to the tips of her fingers how high the piles of precariously stacked plates were), and set the table for a family breakfast.
Audience members talk about their lives, somehow intertwined with this quartet in the past 30 years. How their own lives ran parallel to the quartet – children born, husbands passed away, where they first heard the Artemis, what they heard and how it made them feel. Many have intimate, personal experiences with the quartet – they talk to me of Heime, Volker, Natasha, Friedemann. What it was like, that first concert when Gregor and Friedemann played. The first concert with Vinny, my first concert. The farewells and the new faces.