Brahms Clarinet Sonatas - Emma Johnson
One of the few clarinettists to have established a busy international career as a soloist, Emma Johnson has performed across Europe the USA and the Far East, as well as in Africa and Australia. In Britain she has achieved great popularity, regularly playing to sold-out concert halls as well as appearing at the top of the classical CD charts. Emma Johnson has appeared as soloist with many leading orchestras including London Symphony, Philharmonia, English Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Salzburg Camerata and Netherlands Philharmonic in venues such as the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall and Kennedy Centre. Her repertoire includes over forty different concertos, some of which were written especially for her by composers such as John Dankworth, Michael Berkeley and Jonathan Dove. Praised by the New York Times for his 'great flair and virtuosity' and the London Times 'a masterly recital', John Lenehan's performances and recordings have been acclaimed throughout the world. As a soloist he has appeared with leading orchestras at home and abroad in 2010/11 making his debut with both the London Symphony Orchestra (at the Barbican) and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (at Philharmonic Hall). His innovative recital programmes often include film projection and jazz repertoire. In a performing career spanning more than 30 years John Lenehan has collaborated with many leading instrumentalists and is recognised as an outstanding accompanist and chamber musician. During the past few years he has appeared in major concert halls in Amsterdam, Vienna, Salzburg, New York, Washington, Toronto, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.
"... a collection of exceptional interpretations from a masterly duo." Gramophone
"We owe an immense debt to Richard Mühlfeld. Brahms had retired when the Meiningen clarinettist’s artistry drew him back to composition, as a result of which we have the clarinet trio and quintet, and these two sonatas, as well as the late piano pieces and the Four Serious Songs. I have heard more fiery accounts of the F minor sonata’s first movement, but none that bring out so well its profound sadness. The 15-year-old Mendelssohn’s E flat sonata is a delightful discovery: any danger of excessive blandness is banished by Johnson’s beautiful phrasing and rich colours, and by Lenehan’s powerful playing." Sunday Times
“Emma Johnson and John Lenehan make a fine partnership ..” Robert Anderson, Music & Vision
"A landmark disc."
At first it seems surprising that Emma Johnson has waited until now to record two pillars of the repertoire, Brahms's opus 120 clarinet sonatas, but it soon becomes apparent why: these are the fruit of Brahms's sunset years, works of profound maturity that require a deep understanding that only years of careful performance and interpretation can produce. The result is definitive; Johnson's gorgeous tone evoking the reputed delicate, warm and unaffected sound of the sonatas' dedicatee, Richard Mühlfeld. The Mendelssohn sonata, written when he was just 15, is a charming contrast, its youthful confidence beautifully captured by Johnson's winning partnership with John Lenehan, which is most strikingly apparent in their triumphant reading of the Schumann Phantasiestücke. A landmark disc.
Stephen Pritchard, Sunday Observer
Listen to an interview with Emma Johnson from gramophone.co.uk's podcast