BEETHOVEN Septet (Emma Johnson et al)
Plenty of charismatic playing here, in a programme clearly planned to entertain. The main attraction is Beethoven’s Septet – not the mighty, heaven-storming Beethoven but the composer in deliciously melodic mode. Around it are a morceaux de concert once attributed to Weber but now thought to be by a military bandmaster called Joseph Küffner (1776-1856) and a pair of New Year’s Day bonnes bouches.
Mistress of ceremonies is Emma Johnson, who seems barely to have aged since she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition all of 35 years ago. She is joined by the ever-reliable Carducci Quartet and a trio of principals from various regional orchestras. This sequence was taken live from a concert in 2017 and the audience’s delight in it is audible, although, surprisingly, applause has been excised solely from the penultimate number, Strauss’s Frühlingsstimmen. This palpable liveness leads to the occasional missed note or frayed ensemble which would surely have been papered over in the studio – Johnson perhaps takes a minute or two to warm up into the opening Weber/Küffner – but this barely detracts from the splendid time that is clearly being had by all.
Honourable mentions to the violinist Matthew Denton, the cellist Emma Denton for her elastic bass line in the Weber, and the cornist Peter Francombe and double bassist Chris West for their characterful contributions in the Septet. And Johnson’s reimaginings of the two closing Strauss numbers are as frothy as a glass of bubbly.