Emma Johnson, clarinettist

Who or what inspired you to take up the clarinet and pursue a career in music?

My primary school offered me the chance to learn the clarinet when I was nine and I loved it from the word go.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Living in the UK has been important. There are so many countries in the world where you would not be able to pursue music because of economic circumstances or because of being female.

 What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Sometimes it has been a challenge to persuade promoters that the clarinet is an exciting solo instrument because they tend only to think of having piano or violin soloists.

 Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

 I am very glad I managed to release “English Fantasy” last year, a recording of great pieces written for me by Will Todd, Patrick Hawes, Paul Reade and John Dankworth.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I love a range of styles from Mozart to English, French, American and jazz

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It is partly down to what promoters ask for and partly new repertoire that fascinates me. I like to keep exploring.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I don’t have a favourite venue but I particularly like the more generous acoustics you find in churches and cathedrals. I love playing in the Three Choirs Festival for example.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I have been listening to great jazz clarinettists, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw recently because I have been performing and recording in their style with my jazz trio programme, Clarinet Goes to Town. The inventiveness of these players is an inspiration.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Glenn Gould in Bach and Dietrich FischerDieskau in Schubert.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It was inspiring to play the Mozart Concerto with Yehudi Menuhin conducting in London many years ago. He really understood the spiritual dimension of music.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

They need to be versatile and adept at many styles. They also need to be dedicated to music- it’s not a 9am-5pm job!

What is your present state of mind?

I am feeling relaxed after a successful performance of Will Todd’s jazzy Concerto for Emma live for BBC Radio 3. The performance took so much concentration that at the end I couldn’t remember which way to get off the stage! Luckily the conductor was at hand to show me.

Emma Johnson plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto K622 with the Orchestra of the Swan on 13th April 2017. Further details here

Emma Johnson is one of the few clarinettists to have established a busy career as a solo performer which has taken her to major European, American and Asian venues as well as to Africa and Australasia.

She is one of the UK’s biggest selling classical artists, having sold over half a million albums worldwide. Her recent recording of sonatas by Brahms and Mendelssohn with John Lenehan was described as “definitive…triumphant…a landmark disc” in The Observer and follows on from her classical chart-topping successes: Voyage and The Mozart Album on the Universal label. Her much admired recording of the Finzi Concerto was nominated for a Gramophone Award and Pastoral was chosen as CD of the Year by BBC Music Magazine.

Read more about Emma Johnson here

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