CLARINETTIST Emma Johnson captivated an audience of all ages when she appeared as soloist with Orchestra North East at Durham’s Gala Theatre.

Johnson began with a fluent and vibrant account of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto - one of the first concertos written for the instrument and one of the last pieces penned by the composer.

Giving full voice to her instrument, from plummy tones in the lower end of the register, to sparkling high notes, Johnson invested the flowing melodies of the first movement with a sense of joy.

The singing lines of the slow movement were lovingly shaped with warm support from the strings.

Johnson enjoyed a close rapport with guest conductor Aiden Oliver who drove the final movement to a thrilling climax as Johnson unleashed a seamless torrent of bubbling notes.

And then it was time for something completely different.

Johnson changed from her flowing gown to a fetching sparkly dress to match a scintillating performance of a piece specially written for her by the late jazz composer John Dankworth.

In conversation with Oliver, Johnson gave engaging introduction to the Woolwich Concerto which includes sections of rugged rhythms, pastoral bliss and reggae.

Asked if she still found it difficult to play she joked “extremely difficult”. On a serious note, it was a testament to the individual and collective talents of the orchestra that they were able to master its tricky technical detail with such consummate ease in the short period it would have taken to rehearse.

One of the highlights was a beautiful nostalgic passage Johnson shared with cellist Katie Tertell.

The concert opened with a vivid depiction of Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain and concluded with a stirring rendition of Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Gavin Engelbrecht