JAMES FRANCIS BROWN's LOST LANES, SHADOW GROVES AT KINGS PLACEEmma (Johnson) was magnificent and every note she played in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major, k.622 was beautifully nurtured . . . in Emma's hands, the wide range of expression she evoked, her seemingly effortless virtuosic skill and her undoubted musicality produced an unprecedented effect.
English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods (conductor)
The wonderful soloist was Emma Johnson, whose miraculously soft tone was breathtaking.
(Edward Clark writing for Classical Source, December 2016)
NATIONAL CONCERT HALL DUBLIN
Chamber Music with Ailish Tynan (soprano) and Finghin Collins (piano)
Johnson's sweet and even tone makes much of Schumann's richly imaginative melodies . . . the audience rise at the end to applaud - something rarely seen in a chamber recital.
(Michael Lee writing for Golden Plec, December 2016)
LIVE RECORDING OF SCHUBERT's OCTET at TURNER SIMS, SOUTHAMPTON
Emma Johnson & Friends
. . . eight musicians collectively depicting one human voice with all its complexities and conflicting emotions with effortless grace.
(Thoroughly Good, April 2016)
MOZART's CLARINET CONCERTO AT BIRMINGHAM TOWN HALL
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis (conductor)
. . . so many moments glowing with warmth and empathy with this remarkable soloist. Here was an account full of insight and nuance in a packed and appreciative Town Hall.
(Birmingham Post, February 2016)
MOZART's CLARINET CONCERTO AT THE STRATFORD ARTHOUSE
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis (conductor)
The audience was made aware that it was in the presence of greatness when Emma Johnson performed the concerto with spellbinding brilliance . . . a soloist in utter command of a much-cherished work which she interpreted with wonderful precision and richness of tone.
(Stratford Herald, February 2016)
Clarinet Goes to Town with John Lenehan (piano) and Paul Clarvis (percussion)
. . . this is a fabulous experience, a trio par excellence - ebullient, reflective, historical and unquestionably uplifting. Quite brilliant.
(Philip Dukes, Artistic Director, Marlborough College Concert Series, Oct. 2015)
Recital with John Lenehan at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington
A hugely successful visit... Johnson's level of control, lithe delivery and intimate use of the fingers to create emotion and sensuality remains unsurpassed.
(Leamington Spa Courier, February 2015)
MOZARTíS CLARINET CONCERTO AT CAMBRIDGE CORN EXCHANGE
European Union Chamber Orchestra/Hans-Peter Hofmann (director)
(Cambridge News, March 2015)
'Wonderful' could be the adjective used to describe the (Kendal) Midday Concert Club's most recent recital. However related words like 'amazing', 'awesome', 'extraordinary', 'fantastic', 'phenomenal' and 'remarkable' would be equally appropriate. It is but rarely that the club is privileged to witness musicianship of the quality proffered by the clarinettist, Emma Johnson and her pianist partner John Lenehan . . . we were treated to superb music-making at the heart of which was immaculate ensemble work, sheer beauty of sound, stunning technical finesse, perfect balance, a buoyant joie de vivre, a total understanding of the demands of their music and an attractive union with their admirers.
(The Westmorland Gazette, January 2015)
Emma Johnson . . . a true star for nearly three decades but still the girl from next door with the dancing eyes and the clarinet that everybody loves.
(Chichester Observer Nov. 2013)
BRAVE NEW WORLD ON CHAMPS HILL RECORDS. . . satisfyingly thoughtful recital. Johnson brings to this varied repertoire lyrical beauty.
(BBC Music Magazine, December 2014)
Emma Johnson's high register is sensational. She understands this composer's style too, the mood alternatively lyrical and flippant . . . genuinely effective . . . Johnson gets the music's seriousness without ever sounding dour. All expertly performed and well-recorded. The catalogue isn't bulging with recitals of 20th-century clarinet music, making this a welcome release.
(The Arts Desk, September 2014)
Emma Johnson and John Lenehan have devised a sharply focused sequence of works spanning the years before and after the Second World War. There's plenty of variety, from Rota's 1945 Sonata, blithely ignoring any hint of modernism, to the highly original Lutoslawski Dance Preludes. The Hindemith is played most convincingly, with an infectiously light touch. The Prokofiev, originally for flute then arranged for violin, is a tall order for clarinet but Johnson is able to meet the challenge of the tessitura and decorations . . . vividly characterised.
(Gramophone, September 2014)
. . . .the works demonstrate in quite a moving way the attempts of composers to keep going with what they were doing as storms gathered and then broke across their world, and the mixture of lightness and fear is compelling throughout . . . and the entire program is quite an uncanny experience. Highly recommended.
(American Record Guide 2014)
BRAHMS, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUMANN CLARINET SONATAS ON NIMBUS
With John Lenehan (piano)
At first it seems surprising that Emma Johnson has waited until now to record two pillars of the repertoire, Brahms Op 120 clarinet sonatas, but it soon becomes apparent why: these are works of profound maturity that require a deep understanding that only years of careful performance and interpretation can produce. The result is definitive, Johnsonís gorgeous tone evoking the reputed delicate, warm and unaffected sound of the sonata's dedicatee Richard MŁhlfeld. The Mendelssohn sonata is a charming contrast, its youthful confidence beautifully captured by Johnsonís winning partnership with John Lenehan, which is most strikingly apparent in their triumphant reading of Schumannís PhantasiestŁcke. A landmark disc.
(The Observer, April 2012)
Together the partnership (Emma Johnson and John Lenehan) offers a free-flowing, flexible approach to both sonatas, of vibrant impulsiveness and expansive fervour. Yet structural wholeness remains uncompromised. Their grip on rhythm and pulse is unequivocal, artistic rapport extraordinarily close . . . a collection of exceptional interpretations from a masterly duo.
(Gramophone, July 2012)
The 15-year-old Mendelssohnís E flat sonata is a delightful discovery: any danger of excessive blandness is banished by Johnsonís beautiful phrasing and rich colours, and by Lenehanís powerful playing.
(David Cairns writing in The Sunday Times, April 2012)
These performances have everything you could wish for, with playing of supreme mastery. There is a very distinctive sound to Emma Johnsonís playing that is immediately beguiling. It is Emma Johnsonís ability to bring out so many different shades of tone that is astounding. . . spectacularly virtuoso playing.
(The Classical Reviewer, May 2012)
MOZARTíS CLARINET CONCERTO AT
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis (conductor)
Emma Johnson gave a reading of Mozartís ineffable Clarinet Concerto revealing depths to the work which do not always emerge in the countless performances it receives. This was an account more dramatic than most, the soloist almost an operatic heroine, bubblingly articulate or serenely floating a singing line. Body language, too, added to the intimate communication Johnson conveyed.
(Christopher Morley writing in the Birmingham Post, March 2102)
EUROPEAN PREMIERE OF WILL TODD'S JAZZ CONCERTO FOR CLARINET
Kuopio Symphony Orchestra/Sian Edwards (conductor)
The concert was a glorious demonstration of what the clarinet is capable of in the right hands. Emma Johnson has realised what lies at the heart of music making when it is at its best: she does not just perform, but uses the music to communicate something wonderful.
(Jussi Mattila writing in the Savon Sanomat, Helsinki, November 2011)
BEETHOVEN ORCHESTER BONN
Recital with John Lenehan (piano)
Johnson played brilliantly with rhythmic precision but above all with a pianissimo that is unrivalled.
[Barbara Pikullik writing in the General-Anzeiger, May 2011]
MUSIC AT OXFORD * * * * *
Recital with Pascal Rogé (piano) in the Sheldonian Theatre
This was more than just a mere recital; this was a masterclass in how to combine technique with dramatic and emotional involvement in the music, while showcasing the clarinet's extraordinary versatility in both character and tone. Ms Johnson commands attention with her inspired playing.
(Oxford Times, Feb. 2010)
NEW TOWN CONCERTS, EDINBURGH * * * *
Chamber Music with Natalie Clein (cello), John Lenehan (piano) at Queen's Hall
Melancholy, in the form of two of Brahms's fine instrumental valedictions was the subject of this autumnal concert, where Emma Johnson, Natalie Clein and John Lenehan were heard in various expressive permutations of clarinet, cello and piano tone.
Johnson and Clein, each a former BBC Young Musician of the Year, played with real eloquence, their instrumental voices bound together by Lenehan's responsive piano playing.
(Conrad Wilson writing in the Herald Scotland, November 2009]
KENDAL MIDDAY CONCERT CLUB
Chamber Music with Natalie Clein and John Lenehan
. . . have we ever heard such superlative chamber ensemble playing . . . immaculate ensemble - sensitive, finely-balanced, highly-detailed . . . on an individual level there were never-ending explosions of sparkling virtuosity, supreme examples of refined phrasing, ravishing pianissimos ... in short musicianship of the highest order.
(Westmorland Times, Nov. 2009)
with Frank London (trumpet) at The Jazz Cafe
What do you get when you combine the celebrated classical clarinettist Emma Johnson with the serried ranks of Klezfest Jewish music practioners? Air on a K-string might be one answer. Yet the truth, as revealed at the Jazz Café was considerably more dynamic, surprising and downright funky. With her instrument's rich chalumeau register and her brilliant sense of timing and vocal nuance, it sounded like she was born playing klezmer . . . Emma and American trumpet maestro, Frank London had the audience on their feet.
(Jewish Chronicle, August 2009)
MOZART AT ST ALBANS INTERNATIONAL ORGAN FESTIVAL
with the Royal String Quartet
Clarinettist Emma Johnson demonstrated just why she is a world-class artist with her performance of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet . . . a magnificent performer demonstrated her technical and artistic brilliance.
[Herts Advertiser July 2009]
EMMA JOHNSON AT PERTH FESTIVAL * * * *
with Pascal Rogé (piano)
Emma Johnson is a clarinettist with a flair for the gleam of her instrument's tone quality, its potential for wit, exuberance, and rhythmic finesse, though the nostalgic melancholy of Brahms's chamber music, exemplified on this occasion by his great valedictory F minor Clarinet Sonata, does not pass her by.
[Glasgow Herald, May 2009]
EMMA JOHNSON OPENS THE NEWBURY SPRING FESTIVAL
with John Lenehan (piano)
Brahms' glorious second Clarinet Sonata followed with a meltingly beautiful performance from Emma Johnson. A mobile player, her fluid movements reflected the soft rounded edges of her phrasing as she caressed Brahms' melodies but there was fire too when the music demanded it.
[Newbury Weekly News, May 2009]
ANGLO-AMERICAN RECORDING ON NAXOS * * * * *
with John Lenehan (piano)
The whole programme is played with great polish and flair. It's bound to delight Johnson's many fans and increase their number.
[BBC Music Magazine, March 2009]
MAGNIFICENT OPENING TO THE FESTIVAL OF MUSIC
with Gabor Takacs-Nagy (violin) and Ian Brown (piano) at the Minorca Festival
The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Leonard Bernstein gave the opportunity to appreciate the art of that phenomenal musician, Emma Johnson, indisputably the leading player of the concert. What sonorities emerged from the instrument, now brilliant, now sweet. What an exhibition of virtuosity masked by her natural manner, the freshness and grace she exudes.
THE ESSENTIAL EMMA JOHNSON (ASV DCS 238)
Emma Johnson plays Crusell's charming concerto with lovely pastoral innocence. Malcolm Arnold's Clarinet Concerto No. 2 ends the first disc in a stamp of wild, jazz age exuberance. Johnson shows dazzling virtuosity in Flight of the Bumble-Bee and Scaramouche
(Evening Standard's CD Choice)
CLARINETTIST CREATES A BUZZ
with Gordon Back (piano) at St David's Hall, Cardiff
For an evening of music making of an intimate and joyful nature it would be difficult to surpass last night's recital at St David's Hall. Clarinettist Emma Johnson performed a programme of rich diversity designed to show the wide range of the clarinet's repertoire and character. Perhaps the highlight of the evening came in Poulenc's Sonata where the rhythmic verve of Ms Johnson's playing of the outer movements was balanced by the repose achieved in the central movement displaying the soloist's peerless technique.
[Western Mail, February 1994]
A FIVE-STAR BIRTHDAY TREAT * * * * *
ASV is 21 this year and in celebration has released a Platinum Collection of 21 discs, each devoted to a single composer. The Mozart disc is one of the finest. It consists of the clarinet concerto with Emma Johnson . . . the best of British in some of the best of Mozart. Irresistible.
[David Mellor writing in The Mail on Sunday]
WASHINGTON DEBUT AT THE KENNEDY CENTER
Johnson's musical charms include warm tone, superb musical taste and very sensitive phrasing, this was a debut that offered a lot of pleasure.
EMMA JOHNSON IN WHOLEHEARTED PERFORMANCE
with Storioni Trio in Eindhoven
Emma Johnson and the Storioni Trio played Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps in Eindhoven in a gripping and confident performance. Johnson's expressive clarinet playing melted seamlessly into the Storioni Trio's delicate style. Sounds emerged from nothing, only to disappear once again into complete silence. Masters of their respective instruments, nothing prevents these four musicians from bringing out the unpredictable virtuosity the music demands. Their wholehearted performance had a spellbinding effect on the audience.
[Eindhovens Dagblad, 13/05/05]
Their performance of Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps was grandly expressive. Johnson's clarinet added power and colour to the lyrical high register of the strings; her sound exudes both stinging pain and heavenly acceptance. In each movement one was aware of a deep intensity and a sharply urgent message, as though the end of time was indeed nigh . . .a truly riveting experience
[Gronings Dagblad 11/05/05]
DIVINE INNER SENSE OF STAR CLARINETTIST
with Julius Drake (piano) at Horsham Arts Centre
If there were any justice Emma Johnson would be top of the pops and stay top of the pops for ever. Listening to her play on records and radio, one forgets what a phenomena the real live Emma Johnson is. She starts with all the gifts the gods could give to a musician: immaculate technique, total memory and a matchless musicality, a divine inner sense which leads audiences into the spirit of the music. She also has enormous but understated charm. The audience is with her before she evens plays a note.
[West Sussex County Times, May 2000]
JOHNSON IN LOS ANGELES
Recital at the Ambassador Auditorium
The charismatic young English musician - already a prolific recording artist - offered an interesting and accessible, mostly 20th century program, a lively stage presence, engaging spoken comments on the music and a performing persona both intimately and forcefully communicative. In Schumann's FantasiestŁcke she went right to the heart of its lyricism, shaping alluring, ethereal and dappled phrases as need be. To John Ireland's 1943 Fantasy Sonata and Poulenc's 1962 Sonata she brought a volatility of expression, searing and vehement one moment, breakable and intimate the next. She captured the sweet melancholy of the central movement of the Poulenc perfectly.
[Los Angeles Times]