W0013. EMMA JOHNSON, w.Gerard Schwarz Cond. English Chamber Orch.: Clarinet Concerti by von Weber, Spohr & Bernhard Crusell. (England) ASV DCA 659. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 743625065923
“This is an agreeable selection of romantic clarinet concertos, and Emma Johnson plays them with charm and percipience. Each needs a light touch, as well as thoughtfulness, none is easy either to play or to bring off effectively. Johnson has a good keen attack in the opening movement of Weber's concerto, and allows herself a very slightly easier tempo for the second subject (there is plenty of evidence that this is sound romantic performance practice, though we are slow to get rid of a prejudice against the sentimentalizations that were committed in its name by an older generation). She handles the development intelligently, with some welljudged contrasts of tone and manner, allowing a warm tone to alternate with a more acerbic one, a serious (or mockserious) phrase to contrast with something wittier, even more sardonic. She handles the melody fluently in the slow movement, and takes the finale at a steady pace. There is no need for it to go at a mad gallop; as Jack Brymer (himself a superb exponent of the work) warns in his note, the last couple of pages can become ‘an impossible scramble’, and in any case Weber does not need hurtling speeds to reveal his brilliance.
These qualities inform Johnson's elegant, warm playing of the works by Crusell and Spohr, to whose differences of temperament she is sensitive. Spohr, in particular, needs a clear head with the phrasing. It must suffice to say that for those who like the idea of some attractive clarinet concertos attractively played, Johnson's record can be safely commended. The accompaniments occasionally get blurred in the recording (especially with the woodwind), but not seriously, and Gerard Schwarz provides a fresh, alert complement to Johnson's interpretations.”
- GRAMOPHONE, Nov., 1989