REVIEW: Emma Johnson at the Queen's Theatre
LISTEN to them in quiet passages to tell how good a musician is, I remember being told. Well, by that standard Emma Johnson is pretty outstanding. Here is a performer whose soft playing can transport us to a magical border between sound and silence as, for example, she tapers off final notes with no loss of tone or presence.
And presence she certainly has. Striding onto the Queen's Theatre stage in a striking and delightfully appropriate black and silver costume she eloquently introduced the first Brahms Sonata, whisking us away into the clear Alpine air. The lovely Andante gave her the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that exemplary softness, before she danced her way through the merriness of the last two movements.
The Weber Grand Duo Concertant with its equal emphasis on both players brought John Lenehan out of the shadows – an outstanding accompanist to be sure, but more than able to enjoy the flamboyance of this effervescent show piece. Emma for her part once again succeeded in drawing the most from the operatic slow movement.
For me, though, the high point of this wonderful evening was the Poulenc Sonata. His particular paradoxical blend of humour and pathos was beautifully realised, with all its rapid changes of dynamic and register. Her turning away to play into the depths of the undampered resonating piano was a very special moment. Doucement monotone, very animated, very calm, very light – we had them all.
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Russian Romance was represented by Stravinsky's Three Pieces and Rachmaninov's Vocalise, rounded off by a very fast flying bumble bee. Once again, a wide range of moods all superbly communicated by this consummate performer, now clad in psychedelic colours. I was reminded of the Pied Piper, thinking that with her magic pipe she could entrance us all, to lead us wheresoever she wished. On this occasion, Gershwin via Benny Goodman sent us happily on our way.
We all look forward to being captivated once again by this rightly acclaimed ever popular clarinettist.