The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto has been named the next custodian of ‘The Adelaide’ violin, crafted in Milan in 1753–7 by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.
ASO Managing Director Vincent Ciccarello said the announcements were significant for the ASO and for music in Australia’s only UNESCO City of Music.
“The ASO is absolutely thrilled to have secured the services of our much-loved concertmaster, Natsuko Yoshimoto, for another two years. Natsuko is a consummate professional and brings the highest standards of playing, dedication and integrity to the ASO.”
“We’re also delighted that UKARIA have entrusted this wonderful instrument to Natsuko. We look forward to hearing the influence it has on her own playing and on the sound of the orchestra. Putting such rare and precious instruments in the hands of fine musicians is a wonderful gift.”
ASO Principal Conductor Nicholas Carter agreed, saying that Natsuko is one of the finest violinists in Australia, but also “a tremendous asset for Adelaide”.
“Natsuko is a formidable musician and wonderful colleague whose ambition for the ASO is always at the heart of what drives her. I look forward to continuing to work with her into the future,” Carter said.
Natsuko Yoshimoto was born in Japan and began playing the violin at the age of three, before going on to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Royal Northern College of Music in England, and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She received direct guidance and teaching under Yehudi Menuhin and Wen Zhou Li.
She has won many awards and prizes in international competitions including the Gold Medal in both the prestigious Shell/London Symphony Orchestra Competition and the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa Award. In 2007, Natsuko was presented with the Iwaki Award for outstanding achievement as a Japanese artist.
Natsuko Yoshimoto said: “I was immediately drawn to the warmth and the roundness of the Guadagnini’s tone. It has such depth of sound that it really has a three dimensional quality. I was also amazed by it's incredible responsiveness. I feel like it has endless colours and dynamics to offer and it's up to me to just keep on discovering, keep on experimenting and exploring”.
“I feel extremely honoured and privileged to be the custodian of the Guadagnini. I just want to do it's justice and do my very best to show the true and wonderful quality of this beautiful work of art to the people of South Australia in particular as it's "their" violin and it's now back home in Adelaide.”
UKARIA Chief Executive Officer Alison Beare said the organisation was “delighted that this precious instrument returns to Adelaide, to one of our finest musicians, Natsuko Yoshimoto, whose role as Concertmaster of the ASO, soloist and chamber musician means it will bring music and meaning to so many music lovers”.
UKARIA Founder and Director Ulrike Klein said an instrument only comes to life in the hands of a player and the ears of listeners.
“It gives me such joy to know that this exquisite violin will be played and loved right here in Adelaide. We have much to look forward to, having ‘The Adelaide’ in Natsuko’s hands”.
Vincent Ciccarello said Italian luthier, Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, is regarded as one of the finest craftsmen of string instruments and ranks with Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri.
“ASO audiences are in for a treat when Natsuko takes to the stage with ‘The Adelaide’ for the first time during our Season Opening Gala on 2 February,” he said.
The program includes Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Holst’s The Planets with Australian conductor Benjamin Northey.
ABOUT THE INSTRUMENT
1753–7 Violin, Milan
Carmel Hakendorf was a virtuoso violinist who, in the early 1950s, was invited by Sir John Barbirolli to give her debut in London. Unfortunately, the excitement of the invitation was overshadowed by the poor quality of her violin. Determined to ensure that this young artist had an instrument worthy of her considerable talent, the Music Committee of South Australia launched a public subscription that, with the help of several performances by Carmel, raised 1,750 pounds. With this considerable sum they purchased a magnificent violin crafted by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in Milan in 1753–7.
In August 1955 the South Australian Guadagnini Violin Trust was established to preserve the violin for future generations. Miss Hakendorf held the violin for many years and was a member of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Following her retirement, the violin was lent to several well-known violinists including William Hennessy, Jane Peters, Sophie Rowell and Paul Wright.
Now 60 years later, the violin is valued at US$1M. No additional funds were raised to cover its ongoing maintenance and insurance and the instrument was at risk of falling into disrepair. UKARIA agreed to become custodians and the Supreme Court of South Australia appointed it trustee in 2013.
In 2015 the violin returned to Cremona, Italy for restoration at the workshop of Eric Blot, an international expert in fine Italian instruments. Based in the city made famous by Stradivari, Eric and his team see many of the world’s greatest instruments. After much discussion, restorer Barthélemy Garnier set to work and completely changed the set up (every item that is not original and needs to be replaced from time to time). The results were astounding, and the violin has a much richer voice with more power particularly in the middle and lower registers. It was also painstakingly cleaned so it now looks museum quality.
The Board was so delighted with the transformation that it decided the violin needed a new name to reflect its true character and beauty. At the suggestion of Kerry Heysen-Hicks, who contributed to the public subscription when she was in grade two, the instrument was named ‘The Adelaide’.
ABOUT THE LUTHIER
Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1711–1786)
Guadagnini is often referred to as the last of the great master luthiers of the ‘golden age’ of string instruments, in company with Antonio Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù. Over the course of his seventy-five-year life, Guadagnini made around 403 violins, twenty-one violas, thirty-nine cellos, and three double basses. His nomadic existence, moving as he did from town to town (Piacenza, Milan, Parma, and finally Turin) enabled Guadagnini to produce instruments that were inimitable expressions of the environment in which they were made. Today, Guadagnini’s instruments are among the most coveted in the world, as much for their sound as the cultural potency they now possess.
Maker: Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1711–1786)
Origin: Milan, Italy
Current Player: Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, Natsuko Yoshimoto
Sound Notes: Rich and powerful in middle and lower registers
Owner: South Australian Guadagnini Violin Trust
Date Acquired: 1955
Date Loaned to Natsuko Yoshimoto: 2019