Saturday, February 16, 2008


M&G Concert at the Civic


The last of this season's M&G concerts saw the welcome return of clarinettist Emma Johnson, not fronting the endangered London Mozart Players this time, but as soloist with the presumably well-subsidised European Union Chamber Orchestra.

Playing her dark-toned basset clarinet, she gave us Mozart's sublimely beautiful concerto. Johnson must have played these notes hundreds of times, but the familiar work still sounded fresh and heartfelt, especially in the eloquent, wistful slow movement, with heartbreakingly quiet bass notes, and a magic moment when the strings crept in pianissimo after the cadenza.

She was well supported by some sprightly string playing, and the performance ended with a dance-like Allegro and a whispered joke.

After a tightly controlled Adagio for Strings, we heard a spirited Symphony 29, with fire in the Finale and a nice swagger to the Andante.

The evening did not begin promisingly, though, with a merely workmanlike Haydn Symphony. Only in the Presto last movement did we get any real energy and attack, any sense of communication with the audience or with each other.

The EUCO can seem forbidding on stage, so it was good to see their two oboists serenading the capacity audience in the foyer before the concert.

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