Soloists » Michael Collins, clarinet

Michael Collins

“…Collins dazzles like a bel canto diva in the pyrotechnic leaps, trills and runs,
while he lavishes his rich tone, phenomenal breath control and deeply satisfying
expressive insights on the E minor (Spohr)…” (Sunday Times)

Michael Collins’ dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship have made him one of today’s most sought-after soloists. At 16 he won the woodwind prize in the first BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition and at 22 made his American début at Carnegie Hall, New York. Since then he has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s major orchestras, including the Philadelphia, NHK Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, City of Birmingham Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra. Since his first performance at the BBC Proms, Collins has returned to the festival more often than any other wind soloist.

Indisputably one of the leading clarinettists of his generation, Collins has formed close alliances with conductors such as Charles Dutoit, Carlo Maria Giulini, Neeme Järvi, Tadaaki Otaka, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Leonard Slatkin and Mikhail Pletnev.

In recent seasons Collins has become increasingly highly regarded as a conductor and from September 2010 assumed the role of Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia. His successes as a conductor with both the City of London Sinfonia and other orchestras with whom he works as a guest conductor, including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, London Mozart Players, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra, are testament to the persuasive musicianship and galvanising leadership that is evident in both his playing and conducting.

In 2006 Collins received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year Award, in recognition of the pivotal role that he has played in expanding the clarinet repertoire, commissioning and premiering repertoire by some of today’s most highly regarded composers. He has given world and local premieres of works such as John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons, Elliott Carter’s Clarinet Concerto , Brett Dean’s Ariel’s Music and Turnage’s Riffs and Refrains. In 2009 he appeared at New York’s Mostly Mozart festival, as part of an Adams focus to perform the concerto Gnarly Buttons with the composer conducting. Commissioned for him by the Hallé Orchestra, Collins has also given further performances of the Turnage with the Residentie Orkest, Royal Flanders Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Malmo Symphony and London Philharmonic. He recently gave the world premiere of Elena Kats-Chernin’s clarinet concerto Ornamental Air with the North Carolina Symphony and, subsequently, with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia and Tasmanian Symphony. Last season he premiered a new chamber concerto by Thea Musgrave at Wigmore Hall.

Also in great demand as a chamber musician, he performs with artists such as the Belcea and Takacs quartets, Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, Lars Vogt, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis. His residency at Wigmore Hall saw him performing recitals with artists such as András Schiff, Piers Lane and the Endellion String Quartet. His ensemble, London Winds, celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013, and continues to enjoy a busy diary with engagements such as the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh Festival, Edinburgh Festival, City of London Festival, Cheltenham International Festival and Bath Mozartfest.

Signed to the Chandos label, Collins’ current recordings include concerto discs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Bergen Philharmonic, in addition to recital discs with Piers Lane and Michael McHale. Collin’s 50th Birthday was celebrated with the release of a Chandos disc of Weber Concertos conducted and performed by himself and the City of London Sinfonia. His many past recordings include John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons with the London Sinfonietta, a London Winds’ Ligeti disc for Sony Classical (nominated for a Grammy award in 1999), a disc of Brahms, Schumann and Frühling clarinet trios with Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough for BMG and a Gramophone Award winning recording of Elliott Carter’s Clarinet concerto, with the London Sinfonietta and Oliver Knussen for Deutsche Grammophon. His recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (arranged for clarinet by Mikhail Pletnev) coupled with Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with the Russian National Orchestra and Pletnev was released by Deutsche Grammophon to great critical acclaim.

Michael Collins plays exclusively on Yamaha clarinets.

”…A class act. A classy disc…” Editor’s Choice, Gramophone Magazine

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