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The Virtuoso Clarinet / Michael Collins, Piers Lane

Collins / Lane / Weber / Rachmaninoff / Verdi
Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10615   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alamiro GiampieriAndré MessagerDarius MilhaudDonato Lovreglio,   ... 
Performer:  Michael CollinsPiers Lane
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the great clarinet players of our times, Michael Collins, has apparently embarked on a series of discs that will emphasize different aspects of the instrument. The present disc is for the most part devoted to the showy, virtuosic side of clarinet – hence the title. Collins’ clarinet voice is sharp, sometimes close to shrill, very clear and articulated. So, if you prefer your clarinet soft and pliant, you may have troubles listening to the entire disc in one go. This British musician, as usual, excels in shaping the phrases; they emerge aurally embossed as Read more it were. His staccato is light, and his legato is very smooth. Piers Lane is a perfect partner. He is eloquent and does not stand in the shade of the clarinet – this is especially noticeable in Weber’s Grand Duo concertant, which is a real duo of equals.

The Italian fantasias of Giampieri and Lovreglio are multi-colored and bright. Collins highlights the soft humor of the Carnevale di Venezia variations and dispatches the virtuosic passages effortlessly. Lovreglio’s fantasia on La Traviata is fully operatic – although its spirit is closer to Donizetti than to Verdi. Anyone who adores this opera will enjoy such loving and inventive handling of its gorgeous melodies.

The Solo de concours of André Messager is a test-piece. Besides testing the technical prowess of the player, it is also a musical statement, its style somewhere between Rimsky-Korsakov and Saint-Saëns, with warm French lyricism surrounded by passages of elegant bravura. The piece may not leave profound memories, but it’s enjoyable. The sweet-and-sour taste of polytonality is felt in Milhaud’s Scaramouche. It sounds a bit like a patchwork - and actually is one, as the liner-note tells us. Still, there is a lot of beauty. This is one of Milhaud’s most easily accessible works. The final part, Brazileira, is enormous fun.

The transcriptions of Gershwin’s Preludes and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise are very well written, and I wonder why they are not better represented on disc. The Gershwin is especially alive and characteristic. It captures well the very essence of the composer, and is performed with style. In Vocalise the performers go too fast, and lose its emotional freight. The notes are there, but that haunting melancholy is gone. Another miss is Simon Milton’s Carmen Fantasy. Well, we all know that Carmen was a famous Chinese rhythmic gymnast, who amazed her admirers by her perfect technique and extremely fast manipulation of various apparatus such as ropes, ribbons, etc. What, no? Well, that’s how she is shown here. Instead of charm and sensuality we get elaborations that are brilliant yet somewhat mechanical. The Habanera section sounds like a soundtrack to a silent movie.

The largest composition on the disc is Weber’s Grand Duo concertant. The performance by Collins and Lane is full of energy. The first movement has an excellent momentum. Sometimes I had the feeling that the pressure was too constant, and that the music would benefit from a more relaxed approach. Still, the enthusiasm is engaging, and Collins’ phrasing is unbeatable. The slow movement is played very much con moto. It is agitated from the very start, and is overall more dramatic than lyrical. The finale is lilting and playful. This is a very extrovert reading.

The liner-note by Calum MacDonald is in English, German and French, and is really extensive. Much space is devoted to each piece, and I am sure you’ll find new information even if you know this music inside out. The quality of the recording is excellent: it is very clear and resonant, and the balance between the two instruments is perfect. All in all, this album delivers what its title promises: this is the virtuoso clarinet. Sometimes I feel that the virtuosity eclipses other aspects of the music, but for the most part this is an exciting ride.

-- Oleg Ledeniov, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Carnival of Venice, capriccio variations for clarinet & orchestra in B flat by Alamiro Giampieri
Performer:  Michael Collins (Clarinet), Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 6 Minutes 53 Secs. 
2.
Solo de concours by André Messager
Performer:  Michael Collins (Clarinet), Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1899; France 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 5 Minutes 32 Secs. 
3.
Scaramouche for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 165d by Darius Milhaud
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano), Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1941 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 9 Minutes 40 Secs. 
4.
Concert Fantasia on themes from Verdi's "La Traviata", Op. 45 by Donato Lovreglio
Performer:  Michael Collins (Clarinet), Piers Lane (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1865; Italy 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 10 Minutes 9 Secs. 
5.
Preludes (3) for Piano by George Gershwin
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano), Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 7 Minutes 12 Secs. 
6.
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano), Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 5 Minutes 55 Secs. 
7.
Grand Duo concertante for Clarinet and Piano in E flat major, J 204/Op. 48 by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano), Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815-1816; Germany 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 19 Minutes 23 Secs. 
8.
Carmen Fantasy, for clarinet & piano, Op. 22 by Simon Milton
Performer:  Piers Lane (Piano), Michael Collins (Clarinet)
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Britten Studio, Hoffmann Building, Snape 
Length: 9 Minutes 3 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Il Carnevale di Venezia
Solo de concours
Scaramouche, Op. 165d (version for clarinet and piano): I. Vif
Scaramouche, Op. 165d (version for clarinet and piano): II. Modere
Scaramouche, Op. 165d (version for clarinet and piano): III. Brazileira
Fantasia da Concerto su motivi de La Traviata di G. Verdi, Op. 45: Fantasia da Concerto su motivi de La Traviata di G. Verdi
3 Preludes (arr. J. Cohn for clarinet and piano): No. 1. Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
3 Preludes (arr. J. Cohn for clarinet and piano): No. 2. Andante con moto e poco rubato
3 Preludes (arr. J. Cohn for clarinet and piano): No. 3. Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
14 Songs, Op. 34: No. 14. Vocalise (arr. D. Campbell for clarinet and piano)
Grand Duo Concertant in E flat major, Op. 48, J. 204: I. Allegro con fuoco
Grand Duo Concertant in E flat major, Op. 48, J. 204: II. Andante con moto
Grand Duo Concertant in E flat major, Op. 48, J. 204: III. Rondo: Allegro
Carmen Fantasy, Op. 22

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