Sleepless in the Musikstadt

Sleepless in the Musikstadt


norman lebrecht

May 16, 2019

From our weekly diarist Anthea Kreston:

Not enough sleep – but excited to be heading to Vienna for one last time to play at the glorious Konzerthaus. The Artemis has been in residence there since before I joined – I have played in the egg-shell blue, rectangular wooden hall more than 20 times. With its pristine acoustics, generous stage, velvet-lined seats and devoted audience (we play two nights in a row, same program, to sold-out audiences) it feels the most comfortable of all of the stages I have had the privilege of getting to know these past years. These next two times, my last here in Vienna, will be as a guest violist – playing alongside the new formation, in a joint pass-off concert with the other guest departing member, cellist Eckart Runge. The program (we have already played it a number of times – most recently last night in the Philharmonie in Berlin) is the first Brahms Sextet, followed by Berg Sextet (the arrangement of the Op. 1 Piano Sonata by original Artemis violinist Heime Müller), and then the new Artemis (Harriet Krijgh and Suyeon Kim joining veterans Gregor Sigl and Vineta Sareika) playing the Smetana Quartet.

The roll of a guest in any chamber ensemble (or orchestra) is as an observer. Listen, watch, match, enhance. Learn from the others, quickly, resist asking questions or commenting – rather be open to comments and observe, observe, observe. In addition, playing viola instead of violin means that alliances have shifted – I am no longer the main duet partner of the first violinist – I now pair most often with the first violist, am on the opposite side of the second violin/viola rhythm section, or play as back-up to second cello. It has given me new insight to someone I felt I had known so well – the violist Gregor Sigl, whose facility and emotional freedom with the audience has always impressed me – now I learn and match his viola bow-speed, depth of sound and vibrato width. Slow it down, dig in, offer harmonic support from the C string – a sound which I have always loved, and which informs my violin playing. I am always searching for the darkness in my violin playing, or, conversely, the brightness of the violin e-string encourages a clear, bright sound in the top registers of the viola. For me, the viola and violin are one extended instrument – to play both is to learn from yourself, and to broaden the technique and sounds inherent in each instrument.

I can already hear that the Artemis has shifted gears – they have quickly developed a new sound – something with a bit more air and lightness. Anyway – that’s how it feels from inside, and it’s exciting to see and hear a new life and direction, from within as well as from an audience perspective.

I had expected that I would feel nostalgic or somehow have moments of regret that I decided to step away from this quartet – I have worked so hard, and this opportunity is the pinnacle of anything that I, personally, could have ever hoped for in my career. Especially considering that I had made a conscious decision 9 years ago to step away from pounding the career path, and moved to a small town in Oregon to have children. But, sitting at the tippy-top of the Philharmonie Hall last night, next to old friends, watching the new formation weave a spell – I felt nothing but joy and lightness. They sound just tremendous, and these last concerts are cathartic and freeing. The things I have learned, the places I have traveled, the music I have performed, the flights, hotels, dinners, support staff and colleagues – these memories are preserved because of Norman Lebrecht – because of you – allowing me to be present every moment – to feel and respond and to write. Thank you, Slipped Disc! And I can’t wait to share with you the next phase – already underway, and under wraps, for now.



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I am surprised that she finds Konzerthaus glorious. It is not a very bad hall, but hardly comes close to the truly glorious acoustics of Musikverein. Every time Vienna Symphony plays in Musikverein, they sound so much better than when they play in Konzerthaus.

    • 601 says:

      Well she’s not talking about the Große Saal of the Konzerthaus but the Mozart Saal, which does actually sound and feel really nice both while playing in it and listening in the audience.

  • RW2013 says:

    Great concert last night, seeing you as violist interacting so intensively with Gregor.
    Almost sacrilegious to say that the Berg sonata sounded better on strings than on the piano…

    • Anthea Kreston says:

      Haha. Thanks RW! It’s so fun to play viola. It’s like guilt-free eating chocolate…..see you soon!

  • Bruce says:

    Another lovely, thoughtful, insightful post. Glad we aren’t hearing the last of you yet (I thought maybe this would be an Artemis-only blog), and can’t wait to find out what happens next!

  • Lucie Edwards says:

    Looking forward to a blog about your violin. Are you keeping the instrument you acquired in the Quartet, or acquiring a new one, and if so what are you looking for?

    • Anthea Kreston says:

      Lucie – this is big on my mind! I am in Vienna now (concert just over now) and I will see the owner tomorrow. As far as I know I ha e it for another year or so. Jason thinks I should sell my Becker and try to buy it. It just sounds soooooooo good!!! So easy to play. But then I think – how selfish am I? That is money that could put both girls through college. I don’t know, I just don’t know.

    • Anthea Kreston says:

      This is the organization – they also own Eckart‘s amazing cello….

      • Jaime Herrera says:

        The link to Merito String Instrument Trust does not work. I only know this because I have a Francesco Ruggeri fiddle I wanted to offer them but how to contact them? There appears to be a problem with their website.

  • Anthony Martin says:

    THE Smetana? There are two, and I highly recommend the troubled, turbulent second.

  • Marg says:

    What a joy it has been to be with you through this time with Artemis. I love your open heartedness as you play your final concerts with them (well, who knows? Might not be. They could invite you occasionally when they need an extra player!) Looking forward to whats under wraps being exposed!