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Emma Johnson & Friends

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0156
Release Date: 04/29/2016
Number of Discs: 1
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Emma Johnson, clarinet; Carducci Quartet; Christopher West, double bass; Philip Gibbon, bassoon; Michael Thompson, horn

Schubert Octet in F, D 803
Bernhard Crusell, Concert Trio for Clarinet, Bassoon & Horn

Recorded live during a concert at Turner Sims, Southampton

Since winning, at the age of seventeen, the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition and the Young Artists Auditions in New York, clarinettist Emma Johnson has been one of the UK’s biggest selling classical artists. Since her first recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto when she was 18, she has sold almost half a million discs worldwide. She enjoys giving concerts with her hand-picked group of musicians under the title Emma Johnson & Friends. On this, her first disc in a new collaboration with SOMM, her handpicked friends are the Carducci Quartet, double bass player Chris West, horn player Michael Thompson and bassoonist Philip Gibbon. Schubert’s Octet and Crusell’s Concert Trio were recorded by SOMM in October 2014 before an enthusiastic audience during a concert at Turner Sims, Southampton.

The Octet shows Schubert at his most positive and profound, resulting in a moving masterpiece of the highest order. One of his most consistently inspired works, the six-movement Octet is  astonishing, not only in sheer melodic invention but also in structural development and expressive narrative.  There can be little doubt that the influence of Beethoven was significant in aspects of Schubert’s music during the final decade of the composer’s life. Schubert, as many other musicians living in Vienna during the Biedermeier period, revered Beethoven above all other living composers. The Octet was commissioned from the 27-year-old Schubert by the accomplished clarinettist Count Ferdinand Troyer to be a companion piece, as it were, for Beethoven’s Septet Op. 20 and the formal plan of the work follows that of many late 18th century multi-movement serenades, as did Beethoven’s Septet.

During his lifetime, Bernhard Crusell was considered as one of Sweden’s leading composers and one of the finest clarinettists throughout Europe. His mastery of the clarinet is evident in the delightful serenade-like Concert Trio for clarinet, horn and bassoon, a work which, to our knowledge, has never been recorded before. It is a masterly composition, in which each of the three instruments has been given the chance to shine. The Trio is in four movements which follow one another with barely a break, the music seeming to breathe the clean open air of Scandinavia, positive and outward-looking, a characteristic familiar to us from later 19th-century music by Grieg, Svendsen, Gade, Stenhammer, Sibelius and Nielsen.

Emma Johnson is one of the few clarinettists to have established a busy solo career which has taken her to major European, American and Asian venues as well as to Africa and Australasia.  A popular recording artist, she has done much to broaden the clarinet repertoire by commissioning new works. In addition to her concerts with her hand-picked group of musicians, Emma Johnson and Friends, she has also had rave reviews for her Jazz Trio, Clarinet Goes to Town. Her television appearances range from a recital for Sky Arts to prime time chat shows and she has been Artist of the Week on BBC Radio as well as Classic FM. Her aim has always been to increase acceptance of the clarinet as a solo instrument and she has undertaken workshops and educational projects to communicate her love of music to the next generation.

Emma studied English and Music at Cambridge University and was the first woman to be awarded an honorary fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She is a patron of the childhood cancer charity Clic Sargent, and she was honoured by the Queen with an MBE for services to music in 1996. She plays a clarinet by the English instrument maker, Peter Eaton.

Carducci Quartet
Winners of international competitions, including the Concert Artists Guild International Competition in 2007 and Finland’s Kuhmo International Chamber Music Competition, the Carducci Quartet has appeared at prestigious venues across the globe including the Wigmore Hall, London, National Concert Hall, Dublin, Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Carnegie Hall, New York and Library of Congress and John F. Kennedy Center, Washington DC. 2015 saw them present the complete cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets in Europe, South America and the USA, with a supporting disc released for Signum Classics. This is followed in 2017 with Inspired by Beethoven, celebrating 20 years of the Carducci Quartet.

Acclaimed for their interpretation of contemporary repertoire, the Carducci Quartet has premiered numerous works composed for them; quartets by composers including Huw Watkins, Huang Ruo, John McCabe and Adrian Williams; quintets by Michael Berkeley, Sven-Ingo Koch, David Bruce and Anthony Gilbert.  In addition to their busy concert schedule, the quartet curates festivals in both Higham, Gloucestershire, and Castaneto-Carducci, Italy, the town from which they took their name.

Michael Thompson is internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s leading horn players. A Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, he gives regular masterclasses and lectures throughout the world. As a conductor, he is known as a fine orchestral trainer and has received acclaim for his work with young musicians.

He was appointed principal horn with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the age of eighteen and within three years became principal horn with the Philharmonia. He has an extensive discography as soloist and chamber musician and as a member of London Sinfonietta, is at the forefront of new music giving many premieres, including Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto. He is also active as a studio musician and has played on numerous sound tracks from Bond films to The Lord of the Rings. Sir Paul McCartney composed Stately Horn for the Michael Thompson horn quartet which they premiered in the Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall.

Chris West is the co-principal bass player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and for many years was the solo double bass player with the Guildhall Strings.  He appears regularly as guest principal with many of Britain’s major orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and English Chamber Orchestra. A Professor of Double Bass at Trinity College of Music, London, Chris is also in demand as a chamber musician and he can be heard on TV and film soundtracks such as Downton Abbey, Dr. Who and the Harry Potter series of films.

Philip Gibbon read history at Pembroke College, Cambridge and received his musical education at the Royal Northern College of Music and the Prague Academy of Music. He plays principal bassoon with Garsington Opera and the Rambert Dance Company amongst others, as well as appearing in chamber concerts in Britain and Europe. He has also made numerous CD and radio recordings.

On This Recording

  1. Octet: I. Adagio – Allegro
  2. Octet: II. Adagio
  3. Octet: III. Allegro vivace
  4. Octet: IV. Andante
  5. Octet: V. Menuetto: Allegretto
  6. Octet: VI. Andante molto – Allegro
  7. Concert Trio: Concert Trio “Potpourri”