Review: Top clarinettist sparkles at Warwick Arts Centre

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Royal Northern Sinfonia, Warwick Arts Centre, January 24

Two brilliant performances by talented women musicians roused the arts centre audience on Saturday.

Kyra Humphreys directed the talented chamber orchestra as well as playing lead violin superbly. And Emma Johnson MBE shone even brighter than her sparkly dresses in two clarinet concertos.

The sinfonia has recently welcomed a new musical director designate and has announced the appointment of a principal guest conductor. But amongst all these changes Kyra led the musicians brilliantly without the need for a conductor.

The programme started with the short but sublime Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, which featured in the 1986 film Platoon.

Then Emma took the stage in a long sparkling blue dress to delight the audience with her clarinet playing. In 1984 she was BBC Young Musician of the Year. Since then she has been a soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras and has played jazz and blues.

She treated the Butterworth Hall classical concert regulars to a wonderful version of one of my favourite pieces, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

Then, after the interval, she changed the mood by appearing in a short sparkling green dress to suit the more modern Aaron Copland Clarinet Concerto. Her cheeky, snappy playing of this was skilfully complemented by the orchestra and they won a rousing reception.

The final piece, Mozart’s Symphony No 29 in A Major, was one of the composer’s early pieces. Compared to the Copland music, it lacked dramatic moments but Kyra inspired her fellow string musicians with some energetic playing.

Verdict: An excellent evening’s entertainment

Rating 9/10

By Peter Gawthorpe