NSO Cellist Yvonne Caruthers has over 30 years of service as a “soldier of music” and used her life and her experience as the basis for a solid and heart warming solo performance, In Search of the Perfect G-String.
Throughout the performance Caruthers told stories of growing up in Washington State, playfully recounting her first cello lesson in the third grade to finding her musical passion at Tanglewood as a teenager in 1969. When teenage girls are finding themselves, particularly in that time, Caruthers wasn’t spending money on clothes or make-up. She used her money to buy the complete album set of Toscanini’s Beethoven Symphonies.
She spoke very fondly of the late NSO Music Director, Leopold Rostropovich, “Slava,” as those close to him called him. When she was a young student at the Eastman School of Music, she met him in a master class and had the chance to audition for him in 1978 when the NSO was holding auditions for cellists. Slava, perhaps one of the greatest cellists and conductors of the 20th century, became a mentor to Caruthers, and she spoke of how greatly this impresario became her idol.
She reminisced about the time the NSO famously played in the Red Square in Moscow in 1993 at the height of the Russian Constitutional Crisis, where Slava told them they were “soldiers of music.” Throughout her illustrious career, Caruthers had played under the baton of the greats: Bernstein, Mehta. She played all around the world and played all of the great standard symphonies and concertos.
The title of the retrospective piece comes from the “wolf” note on a g-string: a spot on the g-string which is hard to control and can produce a harsh sound. She talked about instrumentalists having special relationships with their instrument, after all, they spend thousands of hours alone practicing.
Caruthers talks about hearing the young Jacqueline du Pre perform before her untimely death and how different conductors have very different rehearsal techniques.
Ms. Caruthers is a very good storyteller and an even greater cellist. Her program notes indicate that she is writing a book and listening to her stories makes me anxious to read her book if it ever comes to fruition. Solo dramatic performances are difficult for even the most experienced actor, but this newcomer to the dramatic scene is passionate, articulate, and playful. Her performance was truly a masterpiece. Every time I go see the NSO perform from now on, I will look at the cello section and see Ms. Caruthers there and have a newfound respect for her, because she gives us a glimpse into her soul.
Running Time: 55 minutes.
In Search of the Perfect G-String plays through July 28, 2013 at Caos on F–923 F Street NW, in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to the show’s Capital Fringe page.
2013 Capital Fringe Festival Show Preview: ‘In Search of the Perfect G-String,’ by Yvonne Caruthers