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ROOKIE REVIEW: Orchestra of the Swan 2015/16 Emma Johnson & Mozart's Clarinet Concerto

THSH is delighted to introduce our Rookie Reviewers – students from a variety of backgrounds studying at local universities. They will be attending a variety of performances at Symphony Hall and Town Hall over the coming months, and offering their thoughts on what they’ve seen.

Our first Rookie Reviewer, Daniel Blanco, joined us for the Orchestra of the Swan’s performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with Emma Johnson.

Looking at the programme, everybody could expect a concert full of elegance and pureness that, in combination Birmingham’s majestic Town Hall, could make the audience feel part of a European XIX court.

Those expectations were more than satisfied when the strings fused in one warm wave of sound at Fauré’s little diamond that is the Nocturne from “Shylock”, which incidentally was the music for 1889 Edmond Haraucourt’s version of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”.

This was a homage from OOTS to the anniversary of the Bard of Avon, and, even if the Bélle Époque piece was a century ahead of the rest of the programme, it was a very subtle way to start this concert.

The conductor David Curtis, always really engaging with the audience, introduced Haydn’s Concerto in C Major for 2 Lire Organizzate, a – now ill frequently played piece that the king of Naples liked to hear performed, and that nowadays is normally, and this concert was not an exception, played with two flutes.

The first half finished with the performance of Mozart’s 33rd Symphony, where the Orchestra of the Swan demonstrated all its virtues: clearness of sound, homogeneity of the strings, synchronization, a very delicate wind section, an excellent balance… They truly proved themselves to be all of those things with a mesmerizing interpretation of the Menuetto and the last Allegro Assai, which perfectly closed the first part of the concert.

The music came back to stage with the extremely beautiful Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits, a balletic part from the 2nd Act of his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, in which the principal flautist exhibited again her great talent and expressiveness, which was always well supported by the string section.

To conclude the concert, the brilliant clarinetist Emma Johnson performed Mozart’s famous Clarinet Concerto. Her performance was outstanding, showing her control of all the registers of the clarinet –especially the low register, chalumeau_- and the dynamics, being the _pianos and pianissimos an extremely powerful tool of expression that made the Adagio a pleasure to everybody.

Special mention should be made of the ending of this Adagio, when Emma Johnson sustained the last note over the orchestra and created an instance of pure magic. Fantastic!
Daniel Blanco Albert (Moncada, 1993) is a Spanish composer and trumpeter based in Birmingham finishing his studies in Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, and Trumpet and Composition at Valencia Conservatoire. His work includes music for orchestra, chamber music, voice, choir, theatre, etc. He has recently collaborated with the Birmingham School of Acting, and now he is currently working on the premiere of an opera-masquerade about folk theatre.