One of Britain’s most renowned clarinettists, Emma Johnson has gone from strength to strength since winning BBC Young Musician of the Year aged 17.
A best-selling classical artist with over 25 albums released and decades of experience, she shares her advice in the new Chester Clarinet Anthology.
Emma sat down with us to talk all things music and her favourite pieces from the Anthology.
What is it about your instrument that initially captivated you?
I love the way that playing the clarinet feels like singing.
What is your earliest performing memory?
I had a small one line part in the school play at infant school. I remember the thrill of getting a laugh from the audience really took me by surprise.
Are there any points in your career so far that have helped shape your attitude to practising and performing?
The key to performing with ease is to be as well prepared as possible. I always try to build plenty of practice time into my schedule. Practice tends not to be as productive if left until the last minute, so you need a long run-up to performing a new work.
Practising is often purely considered to be time spent honing repertoire and technique with your instrument to hand. What methods do you use to practise or memorise music that don’t necessarily require the use of your instrument?
I often go through music in my head in odd moments; I always take scores with me to the hairdresser or on train journeys so that I can work whilst sitting there.
Have you any advice for conservatoire musicians looking to break into the performing industry?
Winning a major competition is often helpful because it gets you some attention. But it is most important to have your own unique slant – perhaps unusual repertoire you care about, or ways of performing that break new ground.
What is the most unusual or pioneering concert that you have taken part in?
I have premiered lots of works by composers such as Sir John Dankworth, Will Todd, Michael Berkeley and many others. The most unusual work written for me was by Jonathan Dove. It involved playing and reciting the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin together with 120 recorder-playing school children!
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I am giving a number of concerts with my jazz trio; where we trace the evolution of jazz and perform hits by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Sidney Bechet.
Also in the pipeline soon is a live recording of the Beethoven Septet with my group, Emma Johnson and Friends and I am developing some brand new arrangements to fill up the rest of the CD.
Do you have a favourite work from those featured in the Chester Clarinet Anthology?
I have always loved the Saint-Saëns Sonata because it encapsulates the wisdom of a great musician at the end of his life. I also love the Lutosławski Dance Preludes for their energy and verve.
14 popular works for Clarinet with Piano accompaniment; featuring selected works from the major exam board syllabuses, spanning Grades 5 to 8 and beyond.
Includes pull-out part, and performance notes by Emma Johnson.
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