Press Reviews

Concert Reviews

Mozart and Brahms
Warwick Arts Centre March 2019

“The concert opened with Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, composed towards the end of the composer’s life. The Carducci Quartet gave a rich, velvety sound which was coupled with Emma Johnson’s gorgeous tone on the clarinet. She really is an incredible player. She raced through the range of the instrument with graceful and supple playing, and the balance between strings and wind was spot on.
Emma Johnson once again exhibited faultless playing in the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, producing a sublime sound in the second, larghetto movement.”
Mozart Concerto
Bridgewater Hall Manchester March 2017

“The real delight of the night was Emma Johnson’s playing of the solo in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, which was individual and inimitable…Emma Johnson knows this piece as well as anyone on Earth, probably, and she had every phrase thought out and built to make a narrative (at times a drama – and even a comedy). Her tone was gentle but never obscure, self-effacing but unmistakably graceful, and the finale became like an evening of chamber music as she nodded her thoughts towards the concert master and the orchestra responded.”
– Robert Beale, Manchester Evening News

Birmingham Town Hall March 2016
“It looks so simple on paper: skeins of notes with minimal performing instructions. So Mozart’s autumnal Clarinet Concerto can become just a vehicle for technical expertise, though the listener can always sense there is music aching to leap off the page.
And it certainly did so in Emma Johnson’s reading with David Curtis’ Orchestra of the Swan in a packed and appreciative Town Hall the other afternoon. Here was an account full of insight and nuance, discreetly decorated at transitional points, and refreshing our ears to this well-loved score –have we ever noticed before that the soloist holds on to the note at the end of the ineffable slow movement for far longer than the orchestra?
Johnson used a conventional ‘A’ clarinet, eschewing the extra range the rediscovered basset clarinet offers. And this restored to us the wonderful chewy sounds in the chalumeau register that every listener has loved for decades.”
– Robert Morley, Birmingham Post

James Francis Brown Concerto
London Premiere 2016

“..this work expresses various states of mind born from life’s experiences; the music is motivated by nostalgia and also ambition. The wonderful soloist was Emma Johnson, whose miraculously soft tone was breathtaking. Her virtuosity was called upon in the soliloquies but Brown never departs into showmanship; rather the strings have melodic patterns set by the clarinettist’s desires.”
– Classical Source, December 2016

Mozart Concerto
Stratford upon Avon with Orchestra of the Swan 2016

“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

Mozart Concerto
Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 2015

“Cambridge alumnus, Emma Johnson, joined the European Union Chamber Orchetra to present a stunning concert in the Corn Exchange last night. Our Girl ‘Emma’ (MBE) did not disappoint us:- she was magnificent and every note she played in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was beautifully nurtured. As a one-time clarinet player, I know only too well the vicissitudes of playing the instrument, yet, in Emma’s hands, the wide range of expression she evoked, her seemingly effortless virtuosic skill, and her undoubted musicality produced an unprecedented effect.”
– R. Westwell, Cambridge Evening News

Will Todd Concerto
European premiere of in Finland

“The concert was a glorious demonstration of what the clarinet is capable of in the right hands. The soloist, 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. While she plays she moves in the way clarinettists often do, although not in any pretentious fashion- everything is natural and tells a story. Obviously, all this is helped by what is a first-rate technique.”
– Savon Sanomat (Finland)

Mozart Concerto
Phoenix Symphony

“The strongest and most profiled music making of the evening came in the Mozart with English clarinettist, Emma Johnson as soloist. Playing a custom made English instrument of burnished sonic beauty, Johnson performed the entirety of the priceless score as if singing it.
Composed at the end of Mozart’s life, when opera dominated his musical thinking, the Clarinet Concerto is perfectly capable of being read as a quasi-vocal essay, a lengthy and infinitely noble song without words. But it only works if the soloist is, as Johnson was, sensitive to the many nuances of phrasing. Johnson treated the three registers of her instrument – the dark low octave, the conversational middle range and the brilliant top or flute register – almost as different characters engaged in some urgent dialogue.”
– The Arizona Republic

Recital Reviews

Recital with John Lenehan
in the Lake District UK 2015

“Wonderful could be the adjective used to describe the 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. They are old friends of the club, we have heard them before, we knew what was coming, and come it did!
Their splendid programme illustrated their wide-ranging versatility: the classical (Brahms’ imperious F minor clarinet sonata, Nino Rota’s D major Clarinet Sonata) vying with a scintillating array of works and arrangements by Bernstein, Templeton and Benny Goodman, all having jazz as their fundamental element. Throughout, whatever the medium, 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. Generous with their encores, they sent us away happy and content, yet sorry that the precious hour had ended.”
– Brian Paynes, Westmorland Gazette

Schubert Concert
Inner Temple London with Finghin Collins 2015

“There were just two works in the second half, first was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, D.821 written for a six stringed fretted, bowed instrument which became obsolete almost before Schubert finished the sonata. It is now common to adapt the sonata for suitable instruments, often the cello, and here it was Emma Johnson’s clarinet which took solo billing. The opening Allegro moderato started out attractively soulful, with a lovely sense of phrasing, before becoming delightfully carefree with some great runs. In the lyrical Adagio, Emma Johnson gave us a beautifully sung melody, and finally the delightful Allegretto played with strong tones, yet carefree. A good transcription makes the work sound idiomatic in its new guise, and this performance certainly had me convinced.”

Recital in Royal Leamington Spa 2015
“A hugely successful visit- ten out of ten!”
“Johnson’s level of control, lithe delivery and use of a non-playing hand to create emotion and sensuality remains unsurpassed. At times she promotes a devilish mischief, at other times meticulous detail when the music demands it. For the first half performance of 19th century composers – Weber, Chopin and Brahms, she wore a long vermillion dress: her interval change prior to the twentieth century composers revealed a black-booted star wearing a sparkling sleeveless mini- what a transformation!”
“She generated high levels of engagement with the audience, maintained her level of enthusiasm..and the emotion of the playing…Her pre concert talk attracted the largest gathering for such an event for many a year.”
– Leamington Spa Courier

Recital in Bonn
“Johnson played brilliantly with rhythmic precision but above all with a pianissimo that is unrivalled.”
– General Anzeiger Bonn
Recital tour in France
“Emma Johnson, ambassador of the clarinet and of art, proved that music is a living entity, full of passion as well as passion inducing…Thank you, Madame, for the message and the lesson. Those who heard you will not forget.”
– Ouest France

Recital in Oxford
“One of the few clarinettists to forge a successful solo career, Emma Johnson has built her reputation on her eclectic programming and sublime powers of expression – as she vividly demonstrated at the Sheldonian on Saturday night. 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. Whether playing Aaron Copland’s reflective Nocturne or Bernstein’s jazz-inspired sonata, Ms Johnson finds the appropriate voice in her instrument, and commands the attention with her inspired playing.”
– Oxford Times

Recital in Scotland
“There is no point beating about the bush. When it comes to clarinettists, Emma Johnson is in a class apart. And in my over half century of concert going, I can truthfully say that only a small handful of performances measure up to that given by Emma Johnson.”
– Moray Music Showcase

Recital in Los Angeles
Ambassador Auditorium

“The charismatic young English musician 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 Fantasiestücke 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

Recital in Washington D.C.
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.”
– Washington Post


Emma Johnson with the Storioni Trio
“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 musician from bringing out the unpredictable virtuosity the music demands. Their whole-hearted performance had a spellbinding effect on the audience.”
– Eindhovens Dagblad

“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….a truly riveting experience.”
– Gronings Dagblad

Great Irish Houses Festival
“In an engaging introduction Emma Johnson referred to the shared conviviality of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. And indeed this was how the opening Allegro sounded. Ms Johnson’s interweaving, answering and echoing responses came with her uncanny sense of natural phrasing. The aria-like Larghetto movement was then beautifully paced with Emma Johnson’s tone, smoky at the bottom and radiant at the top, again consistently even as she glided so gracefully from one register to the other. The Quintet’s capricious Minuet was an absolute dream with Ms Johnson producing featherweight touches before moving to the serpentine paths of the Finale’s fanciful variations. She and the Contempo Quartet created the ultimate in a festival – a word much abused nowadays – an event.”
– Irish Independent

Chamber music at the Minorca Festival
Magnificent Opening to the Festival of Music

“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.”
– Diario Menorca

“A classical music superstar”Clarinet and Saxophone Magazine