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BILL NEWMAN talks to British clarinettist EMMA JOHNSON


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'I have no objections to popularizing classical music in this country. Having it and funding it, I am happy that Nigel Kennedy does a dance while he plays. Fine! - as long as this results in a happier future for the industry, but I know of no orchestra, apart from perhaps the LSO, who feels at all secure that it will still be with us in a year's time - there is a lot of confusion and nail biting.' The LSO have started recording live concerts where the immediacy, spontaneity and charisma of the occasion makes up for what the studio recording lacks. 'I agree with that, and I sometimes make recordings of my own concerts to learn about the way I play , but it's hard to set up and often you require two performances at the same venue for editing purposes. Generally, records are second best to the live event.' More expensive also? 'No, overall costs are about the same.'

'Right hall acoustics are also important. One of my projects is to re-record the Mozart Concerto on the basset clarinet, but shortage of venues is a problem. I would like to perform it at St. Johns, Smith's Square beforehand but studio recording is still the better bet, although they are shortly trying to improve the acoustical properties of the Royal Festival Hall.' Record companies also make use of church halls; although cheaper they can pose difficulties with over-reverberation causing congestion in the tuttis. 'Recording can be weird; often what you think you sound like is not so at all when you listen to the playbacks. I try to listen to all my takes, and what I know is my normal clarinet timbre now sounds like something on the end of the instrument that alters what I am trying to achieve, magnifiying what I am unaware of like taking a breath, or the clicking of keys, which in a concert situation I would be totally unaware. Often, you also have to tone your performance down otherwise it will sound impossibly exaggerated, and have to guard against it becoming boring. But you can afford to take risks - which I do all the time anyway'. Like Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto, which almost invites you into feats of daring. You go for it! 'Hardest is the Radio 3 recording in front of a huge audience: Do I have to play in front of a microphone to reach the back of the hall, the 800th person? It's a very different experience, and this perhaps explains why some musicians who wear earphones relayed to sound engineers in the playback room are more aware of how their performances are coming over.

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Copyright © 11 July 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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