1984 BBC Young Musician of The Year Performs Crusell's Concerto in F Minor
The MHS Review 392 Vol. 11 No. 14 1987
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David M. Greene
"...the point of this particular choice has more rationale than just the decided charm of the concerto. In 1984 thousands of Britishers were glued to their tellys for five weeks watching the BBC competition for Young Musician of the Year, and saw Miss Johnson win with this piece. "
"The times they are a-changin'." I can guarantee you that this prophecy, cryptic as it may have appeared when first uttered, has proved true. I think of the first time I ever attended a Philadelphia Orchestra concert. In those days about the only women one saw in symphony orchestras were harpists, the harp having been decreed a couple of centuries earlier as a woman's instrument. I do not recall any other women in Wheeler Beckett's Richmond (VA) Symphony. Nor do I recall any in the National Symphony in Hans Kindler's day. I seem to recall that there was a lot of publicity when Doriot Anthony Dwyer was hired as first flute in the Boston. And wasn't there a recent horrid flap in Berlin when the Philharmonic tried to reject Karajan's choice of a female clarinetist?
In the past 12 months I've encountered on records three fine solo clarinetists, all women and all English. I don't know whether that's a mere coincidence, or whether there is a special affinity between Englishwomen and the clarinet. One of them is Thea King. In my day solo clarinetists of any kind were very rare on records. The first I ever encountered, ca. 1940, was Frederick Thurston, who taught Miss King and later married her. Representing the next generation is Janet Hilton, who has concertized all over the world . And now there is Emma Johnson, a Cambridge student, who spectacularly began her career at the age of 18.
This record headlines the Crusell concerto. Born in Finland in 1775, Crusell became a clarinetist in a Swedish military band, and caught the fancy of one of his superiors, who backed his musical education. He became famous in his day and area not only as a soloist, but also as writer and translator. The espousal of his compositions for clarinet by the likes of Miss King has resurrected his name in recent years. But the point of this particular choice has more rationale than just the decided charm of the concerto. In 1984 thousands of Britishers were glued to their tellys for five weeks watching the BBC competition for Young Musician of the Year, and saw Miss Johnson win with this piece.
Two of the other works--Rossini's juvenile Theme and Variations and the lovely Weber Concertino--are always sure fire. The Adagio by Heinrich Baermann may be the first piece by that pioneer virtuoso clarinetist to reach records. A younger contemporary of Crusell, he was a close friend of Weber, who wrote his concerti and other clarinet works for him.