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Three Choirs Festival 2012 - Emma Johnson and John Lenehan
6:30am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Leisure
By John Rushby-Smith
Instrumental recitals don’t come much better than this. From the moment virtuoso clarinettist Emma Johnson strode onto the platform at Shire Hall wearing a pair of black knee-length boots, a tunic dress and a winsome smile it was evident that we were in for a treat.
It was not just Ms Johnson, either, for John Lenehan exuded elegance as he addressed the keyboard of the much-vaunted “Hereford Steinway”. Their programme was well-balanced and mixed the familiar (Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Poulenc’s B flat Sonata) with intriguing works by John Ireland (his Fantasy Sonata) and Arthur Bliss (Pastoral), and some entertaining mniatures by Stravinsky and Joseph Horowitz. All were brilliantly played, and not just brilliantly but also freshly. Never forced, the Schumann and Poulenc shone with finely judged changes of colour and mood, and John Ireland’s attractive work attained an equal plane with those two masterpieces, so clearly was it understood by the performers.
Bliss’s yearning Pastoral was touching in its quest to escape the horrors of war, while Stravinsky’s jazz-inspired Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet showed off their performer’s versatility.
The recital began with a sparkling performance of Mendelssohn’s youthful Clarinet Sonata, a piece that at times evoked the style of arch-clarinettophile Weber, and it ended with Joseph Horowitz’s witty Two Majorcan Pieces, before being rounded off by way of encore with Gershwin’s Walkin’ the Dog. Woof, woof!
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