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BILL NEWMAN talks to British clarinettist


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'I'm doing more repertoire with my chamber group "Emma Johnson with Friends" - like Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, Schubert's Octet, Beethoven's Septet, and a trio of concerts in Spain during the summer with violinist Gabor Takacs-Nagy - Stravinsky, Milhaud and so on, thereby extending my repertoire in 20th century music for which I consider the clarinet ideally suited. Yes, there are also the master chamber works by Mozart, Weber and Brahms, including his two sonatas, and the other day I counted the number of concertos currently in my repertoire - 40! - but I also include concertante works and the Rhapsody by Debussy. I will be reintroducing the John Dankworth Concerto written for me five years ago; maybe I shall record it soon! I had pieces written for me last year by Geoffrey Burgon and Martin Butler.

'It's always fascinating to do new repertoire, but you have to be really sure of your composer and your relationship with them. It can be risky, too, as audiences count on you to play pieces they can get something out of; you are never completely sure of this all the time and sometimes you don't find out until it is too late, when they are not there!' I never came to grips with Michael Berkeley's Concerto.. 'Really?.. that was written during his avant garde period.' So, how does she view works by Birtwistle, Turnage, MacMillan, Adès.. 'I tend to agree, it's not harmony used in a traditional way and doesn't move you, although Turnage and Macmillan do have several hats that they wear which sometimes involve a more harmonic language. Generally, composers nowadays no longer write music around the personality of the performer; I have worked with some who have already decided beforehand on the form the piece will take, although I do make various suggestions based on my instrument where I think it will work to better advantage'. No, this doesn't ever develop into a fencing match. Quite rightly Emma sees the performer as serving the composer. He can always be reached by telephone!

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Copyright © 11 July 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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