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This disc marks the beginning of a new survey of British Clarinet Concertos, featuring the exclusive Chandos artist Michael Collins, who here combines the role of soloist with that of conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Indisputably one of the leading clarinettists of his generation, Michael Collins displays a dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship which have made him a sought-after soloist with orchestras including the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France and the Philadelphia, NHK Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, City of Birmingham Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony, and Philharmonia orchestras.
In recent seasons he has won increasing regard as a conductor and in September 2010 assumed the post of Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia.
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford wrote extensively for the clarinet. His works include the Sonata, recorded by Michael Collins on CHAN 10704 (and very favourably reviewed in BBC Music, see below), and the Concerto recorded here, which, coincidentally, was the first for the instrument to be composed by a major British composer. This concerto boasts an exuberantly virtuosic solo part, accompanied by an orchestra excluding clarinets, but including a brass section of four horns and two trumpets.
The Clarinet Concerto by Finzi was performed by a young Michael Collins in the final of the first BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, in 1978. The work conjures a sense of fresh spontaneity, as it moves through baroque-inspired pastoralism, Elgarian influences, and lively folk-inspired melody.
The virtuosic Clarinet Concerto No. 2 by Sir Malcolm Arnold bears the dedication: ‘for Benny Goodman with admiration and love’. It had been commissioned three years earlier by the celebrated American jazz clarinettist, who had also established a reputation as a classical performer.
Charles Villiers Stanford: Clarinet Concerto in A minor, Op. 80
I. Allegro moderato
II. Adante con moto, ma piu tranquillo
III. Allegro moderato
Gerald Finzi: Clarinet Concerto in C minor, Op. 31
I. Allegro vigoroso
II. Adagio, ma senza rigore
III. Rondo: Allegro giocoso
Malcolm Arnold: Clarinet Concerto No. 2, Op. 115
I. Allegro vivace
III. The Pre-Goodman Rag: Allegro non troppo
“a superb showcase for Michael Collins's talents...I doubt if I've ever hear a finer version of Finzi's 1949 Concerto. The rapt, elegiac intensity of the performance of this works' slow movement, which displays Collins's tone at its most silken, even spectral, is worth the price of the disc itself.”
“The orchestral playing of the BBC SO is crisp and the clarity of the recording allows one to hear a lot more of the harmonic colour and variety that is lost in some of the others. There is so much energy in the last movement, where Collins shows off not only his splendid agility but also the affecting pathos of the closing pages of the score.”