Biz move: Major agent starts handing over to her son

Our diarist Anthrea Kreston attended the 30th anniversary party for Sonia Simmenauer, the only agent ever to specialise in string quartets and still come up smiling. Here’s Anthea:

had been under the wildly mistaken impression that by leaving the Artemis Quartet that I would be embarking on a less hectic, more centered and steady life. If this week has anything in common with the next stage in my life, this little fantasy of a restful period – a moment to catch my breath and lie in the warm grass, just staring up at the sky and being bored, packing lunches for my daughters and grocery shopping – is just that. A total fantasy.

This week – two farewell Artemis concerts in Vienna, a third farewell concert in Schloss Schwetzingen, the second of 4 Piano Trio concerts of the Beethoven Cycle in Berlin, attending a Curtis On Tour concert in Berlin, a 30th anniversary party for our magnificent manager, Sonia Simmenauer, and days crammed with teaching my 10 chamber groups at the University of the Arts and a flurry of meetings across town – I just need to catch my breath. I have begun to work on my next projects – a podcast (details still under wraps) had my days busy in Vienna – visiting graves and house museums of composers with audience members, teachers and media personalities. I am also putting together a one-off Podcast for Curtis On Tour – it was fun to be on the other side of the microphone, interviewing the student performers, audience and director Roberto Diaz.

It’s pretty late – I just arrived back home after the 30th anniversary/birthday party shindig, held at the Maison de Français, which shares a corner building in the heart of the swankiest blocks of Kurfürstendamm with Sonia Simmenauer‘s legendary music management company, Impresariat Simmenauer. Sonia has been running her own show for 30 years. 30 years ago, she was the mother of a 3 year old child, was pregnant with her second one, living in Hamburg and working for Schmid Management in Hannover. She took a step away from the management (she explained to the packed rooms tonight – I was completely geeking out – the crowd was made up of famous musicians and managers who had come from great distances to attend and cheer Sonia on) for the sake of her family. But, Günter Pichler (first violinist of the legendary Alban Berg Quartet) asked for her to become their private manager. Before she knew it, 6 other quartets has jumped ship and she was now the mother of them all. Thus began the powerful reign of Sonia Simmenauer.

Vadim Guzman toasted her, violin in hand, as a stream of mythical living string quartets personalities took turns emerging from behind a set of immense wooden doors (Arditti, Ebene, Belcea, Berg…..). He bounded up on stage, and began to play. Stopping mid-phrase, he said – but I am lonely! The curtains parted to the gasps of the audience – a 20 piece orchestra of some of my quartet idols, bows poised above the strings. What happened next was a rough-shod, lightly (if even) rehearsed miniature concert – the stage command of these veteran performers – each one with a face and physical performance mannerism that we know so well. How could they even play together – individuals, every one, and with personalities that threatened to take the roof off. Just the collection of instruments on stage was enough to take your breath away – and the portamento….. What a thrill. Total thrill. I will be up until the wee hours tonight – I have interviews to prepare for, planning and crafting and learning new skills. Maybe tomorrow I can lay in the grass….

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  • Bruce says:

    What a great event to be present for. I love those “this is why we do what we do” moments.

    Plus you will be able to tell your students down the road: “I was there that night, when…”

  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    Sonia is indeed a wonderful person and top class manager who adds considerable value to careers. I count her as a friend. There was, in fact, another fabulous manager who focused a lot on string quartets- the late Mariedi Anders of San Francisco. A highly cultivated Viennese Jew, cousin of Eugene Ormandy, she escaped the holocaust and represented the cream of European chamber music in North America. She even toured Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus who were unknown in the U.S. at the time. I am drinking a toast to both of these great women.

    • David Rowe says:

      Indeed, Costa, Mariedi – for whom I had the pleasure of working for a dozen years – was a trailblazer, and I believe probably served as an example to Sonia. Congratulations on 30 years, Sonia (how did THAT happen?!) and RIP Mariedi.

  • Anthea Kreston says:

    Sonia is an example of the kind of manager who really Manages – doesn’t just book concerts. Each member of every group has a unique relationship with her. One of the best things of these last years – an inspiration.

  • Marg says:

    No rest for the wicked as they say! If the new phase of life includes parties like this its going to be a blast!

  • André Carus says:

    Just heard your Munich (Prinzregententheater) concert with my 10-year-old (violinist) son, who said Op. 18 was the most beautiful music he’d ever heard, and he even liked the Berg transcription. I first heard that in Vienna back when Heime Müller was still in the quartet (long before you were), played with Valentin Erben and Thomas Kakuska, and Kakuska introduced the piece as well. I can’t recall it that clearly, but my impression is that it was just as good tonight as it was back then with Erben and Kakuska, if not even more persuasive. (And I’m now prepared to admit, even as a pianist, that there are dimensions of that piece that simply come across better in the sextet configuration than via the piano.) Congratulations!

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