- Grand Duo Concertante for clarinet & piano in E flat major, J. 204 (Op. 48) - Carl Maria von Weber - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Vocalise, instrumental arrangement, Op. 34/14 - Sergey Rachmaninov - David Campbell - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Preludes (3) for piano - George Gershwin - James Cohn - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Fantasy on Themes from Verdi's "La Traviata" for clarinet & piano, Op. 45 - Donato Lovreglio - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Scaramouche (3), suite for clarinet & orchestra (or piano), Op. 165d - Darius Milhaud - Darius Milhaud - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Solo de concours for clarinet & piano - André Messager - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
- Carnival of Venice, capriccio variations for clarinet & orchestra in B flat - Alamiro Giampieri - Piers Lane - Ferdinand Schimon - Michael Collins - Gill Robinson
The Virtuoso Clarinetby Michael Collins
The Virtuoso Clarinet, promises the title of this album, and few could argue that it does not deliver: the blazing runs of the Italian pieces here stretch the instrument to its limits, and clarinetist Michael Collins doesn't miss a step. Look no farther than the variations in Alamiro Giampieri's "Il carnevale di Venezia," a thoroughly retrospective work that was composed in 1948 but looks back to the traveling virtuoso days of the 19th century. The other Italian work, Donato Lovreglio's "Fantasia da concerto su motivi de La traviata de G. Verdi, Op. 45," represents a different strain of 19th century music, the popular operatic transcription. Both of those are unusual works, and perhaps an even greater feat than Collins' sheer technical mastery is the digging he undertook to put together an entertaining program that showcases not only virtuosity, but virtuosity of various kinds. Some of these pieces are known to wind students, but they've rarely been heard together as they are here, and a work like André Messager's "Solo de concours" (Competition Solo) gains from being surrounded by works that exploit the clarinet in a different way. Most of the music is originally for clarinet (the arrangement of Milhaud's "Scaramouche, Op. 165b," for clarinet and piano is the composer's own), and the two transcriptions, of Gershwin's "Three Preludes" and Rachmaninov's "Vocalise," each add something to the clarinet vocabulary on display. With suitably circumspect accompaniment from Piers Lane, superb engineering from Chandos, and informative booklet notes (in English, German, and French), this is a recital of instrumental fireworks that anyone might enjoy.
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Performance CreditsMichael Collins Primary Artist
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Michael Collins has, in many ways, inherited the mantle of well known English clarinet virtuosi from the likes and line of Gervase de Peyer and Reginald Kell. Like DePeyer and Kell, Collins began as a top grade orchestral player, has also recently gotten into conducting, his career truly took off in the role of soloist. Michael Collins has also done what Benny Goodman, Richard Stoltzman and Martin Frost have done; to become an advocate of new, high quality music for his instrument and be on the front line of commissioning composers. This advocacy has produced the Eliott Carter 'Clarinet Concerto' and the John Adams' "Gnarly Buttons" (concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra) among others. Collins is a performer with a supple, liquid and beautiful tone and control of all registers. He has appreciable technique and a good staccato but what I have enjoyed about his playing the most, over the years, is his sensitivity to the phrase and line in music. Collins can play fast and in a very attention getting manner, but never just because he can - always with the inherent qualities of the music first and foremost. This new, wonderful recital on Chandos is a terrific example and an excellent introduction to his artistry. There are some very familar works here. Collins' reading of the Milhaud "Scaramouche", the Rachmaninov "Vocalise" and the Weber "Grand Duo Concertante" (a 'must play' for any undergraduate clarinet performance major) are all exceptionally well done and among the best renditions one could find. For me, however, I truly enjoyed some pieces that I was not that familiar with. The Lovreglio "Fantasia de Concerto" (after themes from Verdi's 'La Traviata') and Giamperi's "Carnival of Venice" variations are great fun to listen to and, I'd bet, to play. Alamiro Giamperi was both the editor/discoverer of the Lovreglio work as well as clarinetist-composer in his own right. They are both very Italian sounding, flourishy delicacies and a great addition to this program. Another "find" but one I did know about was the Jim Cohn arrangement of the Gershwin "Preludes" Originally for piano, they play very well in this version (a few altissimo notes in for showy purposes) and are among Gershwin's best know pieces. The program also includes Messager's "Solo de Concours" from 1899 and the much newer "Carmen Fantasy" by Simon Milton (2009). Both pieces are showy, tuneful and probably quite challlenging to play but they do not leave as strong a musical impression as the Weber, Milhaud or Lovreglio, for example. This package really is a great introduction to the playing of Michael Collins and special mention must be made of Piers Lane, his pianist. Lane's sensitive accompaniment and balance is reminiscent of some of those great recital albums made by de Peyer forty years ago with Cyril Preedy and others. I also do recommend you hear Collins in the John Adams "Gnarly Buttons" - a late twentieth century master work for clarinet played by this master of the clarinet. Chandos' recording and the packaging is characteristically first rate!