Current Issue #488

Natsuko Yoshimoto to step down from the ASO

Natsuko Yoshimoto
Claudio Raschella
Natsuko Yoshimoto

After a decade as concertmaster of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Natsuko Yoshimoto has revealed she will depart in 2020 – but not before a string of final performances.

Her silky, rich-toned playing and honed leadership of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s string section over the last decade have made Natsuko Yoshimoto one of the most admired and respected of Australia’s musicians. It is always a special moment when she takes a solo, and the whole orchestra feels inspired by her presence. Now, however, the Japanese-born violinist has decided it is time for a change: having served as the ASO’s Concertmaster since 2009, she wants to move onto other musical pursuits, and spend time with her family.

Yoshimoto gives her final concert in the role on 31 October and then heads to Brisbane to join her husband, Imants Larsens, and their two young children, son Kai and daughter Maya. Larsens was appointed principal viola with Queensland Symphony Orchestra in 2019, after many years with the ASO – a situation that has forced the family to be split between two cities.

Before she leaves though, Adelaide audiences will have the opportunity of hearing her perform one of the great works of the violin repertoire, Brahms’s Violin Concerto, in April. In September she takes on one of the major landmarks of her Concertmaster career when the ASO performs all nine Beethoven symphonies, likewise under its principal guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth.

Having started violin at age three, Yoshimoto went on to learn from three of the world’s leading music schools, the Yehudi Menuhin School – where she was a personal student of Yehudi Menuhin – and the Royal Northern College of Music in England, and the Curtis Institute of Music in the US. Moving to Australia, she led the Australian String Quartet from 2001 to 2006, and the Grainger Quartet until the end of 2008. From there it was a natural stepping stone into the ASO.

Announcing her departure, the ASO’s managing director Vincent Ciccarello paid tribute to her remarkably successful time with the orchestra. “She not only enjoys the admiration and respect of her colleagues, but her great charm and charisma make her much-loved by our audiences,” he said.

“We wish her every success and happiness as she goes on to this next phase of her stellar career. She’ll be sorely missed but we look forward to welcoming her back in the future as a guest performer with the orchestra.”

The characteristically modestly spoken Yoshimoto offered tributes herself. “It has been an extraordinary honour to lead the ASO as concertmaster. I am grateful for the experience and the musical journey I have undertaken. I have been privileged to have played under some of the world’s leading conductors and I look back on my career with the ASO with great affection,” she said.

“The ASO is full of special people and I have tremendous respect for them and I’m always learning from them!”

Yoshimoto’s departure at the end of this year is a case of adieu, not of au revoir: the ASO said in its announcement that she is expected to return on future occasions as a guest performer.

Adelaide has indeed been fortunate to have her thus far.

Graham Strahle

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