An English Fantasy
Here’s an amiable disc exploring the light end of contemporary clarinet composition in works written especially for soloist Emma Johnson. This is music that doesn’t make too many demands on the listener, yet is well crafted.
Will Todd’s Concerto for Emma is impish and jazzy, with bluesy muted trumpet setting off the Ballad central movement. Johnson slips and slithers through the lively outer movements with a great sense of character. Also on the jazz spectrum is John Dankworth’s Concerto, composed for Johnson in 1995 and subtitled The Woolwich because it was Johnson’s local building society that sponsored the commission! Dankworth’s is a busy, cosmopolitan concerto, a magpie collection of differing styles and moods from its nostalgic slow movement to its catchy boogie-woogie finale.
Paul Reade’s Suite from The Victorian Kitchen Garden will be familiar to many readers from its use in the 1990s BBC television programme. Johnson revels in these five charming miniatures, of which the closing number, ‘Summer’, has become a great favourite with young clarinet students, having been on the ABRSM Grade 5 list for several years.
The most substantial work on the disc – and the most musically nourishing too – is Patrick Hawes’s Concerto, which exists thanks to Twitter. Hawes and Johnson ‘met’ online and the result is a fine new work. Johnson soars with ease in the gorgeous Sarabande, delicately scored and really rather haunting. The purposeful march for the finale ends with a sustained top C, pulled off with aplomb.