INFLUENTIAL WOMEN: Natsuko Yoshimoto

NATSUKO YOSHIMOTO, CONCERTMASTER OF ADELAIDE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

She’s tiny at just 155cm, but when she enters the room Natsuko Yoshimoto is instantly mesmerising. She has arrived at our shoot, held in the grand Auditorium at Adelaide’s Town Hall, unassuming in a summer dress, cardigan and flats, her hair loosely tied at the nape of her neck. In her hands is her most prized possession – her $1.8 million 17th century violin. No one except Natsuko is allowed to touch it, even if just to move it a short distance from the dressing area onto set.

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Natsuko has called Adelaide home for the past 11 years, although she did spend some time here in the early 2000s when she joined the Australian String Quartet as the first violin. “I then moved to Sydney with the Grainger Quartet before coming back to Adelaide to take on the position of concertmaster of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide is now the longest place I’ve ever lived!”

In her early years, Natsuko spent time in Dubai where her parents briefly moved for work, and in Europe, where they would travel during school holidays for violin lessons. It was during one of these holidays that Natsuko and her family were told about the Yehudi Menuhin School, a specialist music school in the UK. A short time later, she was enrolled.

“I was only 11 and hardly spoke any English,” she says. “I remember being taken there by my dad and the moment he left, and the door shut behind him, how alone, sad and lost I suddenly felt. But, all of the other students were in the same situation, so they all became my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. It was a small school of 50 students between the ages of eight and 18. It felt like an extended family [and] immediately there was this instant connection and bond between us all; the friends I made during that time still remain my closest friends today.”

Of course, this experience also provided the opportunity for Natsuko to gain a very broad musical education – she was taught by legendary American-born violinist and composer, Yehudi Menuhin, and inspired by many of his musical friends and colleagues. “I spent many hours with Menuhin, having lessons at his home or performing with him. It was invigorating and inspiring to be in such an environment,” she says. The interest in his work began before this time spent in the UK though, and a young Natsuko would listen intently to Menuhin’s work, along with the likes of Heifetz, Szigeti and Zukerman, completely taken by their unique tone and deeply moving and honest interpretations. “I just wanted to be them, to do what they could do,” she says.

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These days she is doing just that, as the first-ever female concertmaster of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. It’s a musical family; she’s married to fellow ASO musician Imnants Larsens and the couple have two young girls who are also showing a primitive appreciation of music. “Currently they love the flute, ?so we’ve bought them both a recorder!”

“The advantages of working and performing alongside your husband are many”, says Natsuko. “It’s really fantastic to be able ?to share the stage and experience the highs together – there are also negatives, of course, and it’s sometimes hard for us ?to switch off. Also, I’m not sure Imnants is happy that I’m the boss at home and at work,” she laughs.

 Quick Questions

 If I wasn’t a musician I’d be…
maybe a potter!

My muse is…
anyone or anything that inspires me.

The last text I received was from…
the person who rehaired my bow.

I can’t go through a day without…
coffee, family, playing music and wine.

In five years…
I’ll have more grey hair!