Emma Johnson (clarinettist)

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Emma Johnson (born 20 May 1966,[1] Barnet[2]) is a British clarinettist, who was awarded an MBE for services to music in 1996.

In 1984 she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, playing one of Crusell's clarinet concertos in the televised final,[3] and went on to win the Bronze Award representing Britain in the subsequent European Young Musician Competition. She also won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1991 which led to her New York City recital debut at Carnegie hall. She has gone on to become one of the UK's biggest selling classical artists, having sold over half a million discs sold worldwide. [4]

Emma Johnson has released several CDs, of clarinet concertos and recital music, covering both standard classical repertoire and occasionally lighter tracks, including some jazz. She plays a Peter Eaton clarinet.

Johnson has given concerts throughout Europe, as well as in America, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Africa and Australia, and has had works dedicated to her by Sir John Dankworth, Will Todd, Patrick Hawes, Michael Berkeley, Matthew Taylor and Robin Holloway.

The soundtrack to the BBC television series The Victorian Kitchen Garden, a suite made up of five short movements for clarinet and harp, was dedicated to Johnson by the composer, Paul Reade.

Johnson is now a governor at the school she used to attend, Sevenoaks School.

In 2016, Emma Johnson has become the first female alumnus to have a portrait unveiled at Pembroke College, Cambridge. The clarinettist was the first woman to be made an honorary fellow of the college in 1999.[5]

Early career[edit]

Emma Johnson was born on 20 May 1966 at Barnet in Hertfordshire. She attended Newstead Wood School for Girls, Orpington and Sevenoaks School, learning the clarinet with John Brightwell. She joined the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the age of 15. In 1984, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year title, performing Crusell's Second Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Bryden Thomson. She went on to represent Britain at the European Young Musician Competition where she was awarded the Bronze Award. She made her London debut at the Barbican Hall, playing the Mozart Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra on 10 February 1985.[2] She chose not to go to music college, but in 1985 matriculated to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where she studied English, then Music. While there, she had clarinet lessons with Sidney Fell and Jack Brymer. During this period, she combined her studies with a burgeoning professional career, appearing regularly in concerts in Britain and abroad. By the time she was in her third year at university she had performed at all the principal concert halls in Britain and with most of the professional orchestras.[2] She had also made many television appearances[2] and signed an exclusive recording contract with ASV Records, for whom she went on to record more than a dozen best-selling discs.


  • 1985 Mozart Clarinet Concerto (with English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Raymond Leppard) c/w Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto (William Bennett, flute, and Osian Ellis, harp) (ASV Records)
  • 1986 Crusell Clarinet Concerto no. 2, Weber Clarinet Concertino, Baermann Adagio, Rossini Introduction Theme and Variations (with English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Sir Charles Groves) (ASV Records)
  • 1987 Weber Clarinet Concerto no. 1, Crusell Introduction Theme and Variations on a Swedish Air, Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie, Tartini/Jacob Concertino (with English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier) (ASV Records)
  • 1988 La Clarinette Francaise (Recital of French music with Gordon Back, piano) (ASV Records)
  • 1989 The Romantic Clarinet - Weber Clarinet Concerto no. 2, Spohr Clarinet Concerto no.1, Crusell Clarinet Concerto no. 3 (with English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz) (ASV Records)
  • 1990 Clarinet Celebration (Recital of German and Italian music with Gordon Back, piano) (ASV Records)
  • 1991 Emma Johnson Plays Weber (Weber Concertos and Concertino from earlier recordings) (ASV Records)
  • 1991 Crusell Clarinet Concerto no. 1, Kozeluch Clarinet Concerto, Krommer Clarinet Concerto (with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gunther Herbig) (ASV Records)
  • 1991 Emma Johnson Plays Crusell (Crusell Concertos from earlier recordings) (ASV Records)
  • 1992 Encores (Recital disc with Julius Drake, piano, and Skaila Kanga, harp) (ASV Records)
  • 1993 Finzi/Stanford (with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Charles Groves, and with Malcolm Martineau (piano) (ASV Records)
  • 1993 Michael Berkeley Concerto (with Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Sian Edwards) (ASV Records)
  • 1994 Encores 2 (Recital disc with Julius Drake, piano) (ASV Records)
  • 1994 Pastoral (Recital disc of English music with Malcolm Martineau, piano, and Judith Howarth, soprano) (ASV Records)
  • 1995 Sir Malcolm Arnold - The Complete Works for Clarinet (with English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ivor Bolton) (ASV Records)
  • 1999 The Essential Emma Johnson (compilation of earlier recordings) (ASV Records)
  • 2000 Mozart and Weber Clarinet Quintets (with Emma Johnson and Friends) (ASV Records)
  • 2004 Voyage (popular pieces with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Julian Reynolds, and John Lenehan, piano) (UCJ)
  • 2005 The Mozart Album (Mozart Concerto and Quintet with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the ConTempo Quartet) (UCJ)
  • 2009 Copland/Bernstein/Dankworth (Recital disc with John Lenehan, piano) (Naxos)
  • 2012 Brahms Sonatas (recital disc with John Lenehan, piano) (Nimbus)
  • 2014 Brave New World (Prokofiev, Hindemith, Rota, Messiaen, Lutoslawski with John Lenehan piano) (Champs Hill Records)
  • 2015 Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Zemlinsky Trio (with Michelangelo Quartet) (Nimbus)
  • 2016 Schubert Octet (recorded live with Emma Johnson and Friends) (Somm)
  • 2016 English Fantasy (premiere recordings of Concertos by Sir John Dankworth, Patrick Hawes, Paul Reade and Will Todd with BBC Concert Orchestra cond. Philip Ellis) (Nimbus Records)
  • 2016 Clarinet Goes To Town (collection of light and jazz arrangements with John Lenehan, Paul Clarvis and the Carducci Quartet) (Nimbus Records)


  1. ^ "Birthdays", The Guardian, p. 39, 20 May 2014 
  2. ^ a b c d Pamela Weston, Clarinet Virtuosi of Today
  3. ^ "1984 Emma Johnson - Clarinet". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  4. ^ "Worcester News". 2 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Classical Music Magazine 9/3/2016

External links[edit]