No wonder the Orchestra of the Swan gets full houses at its Birmingham Town Hall events.
Nothing could be patron-friendlier than a Wednesday afternoon concert in this most elegant of auditoria; nothing could be more refreshing than the enthusiasm with which these gifted players deploy their skills under the relaxed yet alert conducting of David Curtis; and its roster of guest soloists, all at the top of the tree in terms of what this country can offer, is truly amazing.
The latest luminary to share the OOTS stage is Emma Johnson, who last Wednesday, after a charming pre-concert interview during which she demonstrated her bespoke basset-clarinet with its extended lower range, gave a reading of Mozart’s ineffable Clarinet Concerto revealingdepths to the work which do not always emerge in the countless performances it receives.
This was an account more dramatic than most, the soloist almost an operatic heroine, bubblingly articulate or serenely floating a singing line, adding discreet ornamentation or an apt mini-cadenza, and prolonging the final note of the celestial ‘adagio’ until the sound faded on the breath. Body-language, too, added to the intimate communication Johnson conveyed.
The orchestra responded empathetically (fabulous inner detail from the violas), having already delivered supple, lissom movements from Mozart’s technically searching Divertimento K247 (commanding horns, and lovely violin solos from David le Page).
We ended with the ‘Souvenir de Florence’ by that arch-Mozartophile Tchaikovsky, buoyant, well-balanced and richly-toned, and always with the sense that the world of ballet was never far away.