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 well over half a million albums. Her recent recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra, English Fantasy, has been streamed a million times on Spotify and follows on from her classical chart-topping successes: Voyage and The Mozart Album on the Universal label. Johnson’s CD of sonatas by Brahms and Mendelssohn with John Lenehan was described as “definitive…triumphant…a landmark disc” in The Observer and her recording of the Finzi Concerto was nominated for a Gramophone Award whilst Pastoral was chosen as CD of the Year by BBC Music Magazine.
Emma has appeared as soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras in repertoire which includes all the major clarinet works as well as pieces written especially for her by Sir John Dankworth, Will Todd, Patrick Hawes and Michael Berkeley amongst others.
Emma has collaborated with artists such as Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Dame Cleo Laine and the Takacs Quartet and she directs her own group, Emma Johnson and Friends, whose recent live recording of the Schubert Octet was described as “a winner” by Music Web International. In 2020 she was honoured to receive the Cobbett Medal for distinguished services to chamber music from the Musicians’ Company guild in the City of London.
She enjoys creating distinctive concert programmes such as Tales From Vienna exploring the music of 19th century Vienna and her talk about humour in music, Comedy Classical . Her broadcasts about composer, Gerald Finzi and poet, John Milton on BBC Radio 4 were both chosen as Pick of the Week.
An exciting collaboration with composer Jonathan Dove has seen Emma working with UK school children in workshops and performances to recreate the story of The Pied Piper. She has also given masterclasses throughout the world and was a professor at the Royal College of Music, London.
Enthusiastic audience response to her jazz playing has inspired Emma to develop Clarinet Goes to Town, an entertaining programme of music tracing the origins of traditional jazz. She arranges music of many styles for the clarinet; books of her compositions and arrangements have been published by Music Sales and Faber Music. Her piece Georgie is currently on the Associated Board syllabus and her Songs of Celebration for clarinet and choir has been performed in London, Dublin, Tokyo and Gloucester Cathedral.
Emma Johnson’s TV appearances range from a recital for Sky Arts TV to gala concerts including a recent televised Prom celebrating the BBC Young Musicians programme. She featured in the Channel 4 documentary about the late Sir John Dankworth and played the popular hit theme tune for The Victorian Kitchen Garden on BBC TV (winning a Novello Award). Her radio work includes Artist of the Week for both BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM as well as for radio stations around the world and she has been interviewed on programmes such as Woman’s Hour and World at One on BBC Radio 4.
Emma grew up in London and her career was launched when at the age of 17 she won BBC Young Musician of the Year followed by the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York. However, she decided to study Music and English at Cambridge University before embarking fulltime on a musical path. In 2019 she ran a half marathon to raise funds for Unicef and she is a patron of ClicSargent, and Ronald Macdonald House Charities. Emma was also the first woman to be made an Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge and to have her portrait painted for the college. She was honoured by the Queen with an M.B.E. in 1996.
Emma plays an instrument made by the English clarinet maker, Peter Eaton.
“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.”