Notes and Editorial Reviews
The distinguished clarinetist Michael Collins has in recent years also gained recognition as a conductor, appearing with eminent orchestras across the world. The present disc sees his recording debut as a conductor of symphonic repertoire, from which he has chosen Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony – one of the composer’s best-loved works. Written during the Second World War and with its symphonic predecessor displaying a convulsive fury and desolation, the Fifth is surprisingly serene and pastoral. Vaughan Williams dedicated it ‘without permission’ to Jean Sibelius – who in his diary described his impression on first hearing the work as ‘a caress from a summer world.’ On the present release, Vaughan Williams is followed by his younger colleague and friend Gerald Finzi, who he once advised to write a symphony: ‘They're ever so easy’. Finzi was not convinced, and remains known as a composer of primarily vocal music, but among his few instrumental works is a Concerto for Clarinet, the instrument widely regarded as the most voice-like of all. For this, Michael Collins reverts to his customary role as soloist, conducting the strings of the Philharmonia Orchestra from the clarinet.
Michael Collins is always up to its technical demands and simply plays with all-out confidence and accuracy throughout. Moreover, he shapes the score as conductor and soloist here with sensitivity and a total grasp of its lyrical character. This concerto is new to me and thus I cannot make comparisons with the several competing available versions. That said, I doubt anyone plays it significantly better than Collins. I am perfectly pleased to have this account as my only version of this concerto. In addition, since it is coupled with the excellent rendition of the Vaughan Williams Fifth and also features vivid, well balanced sound reproduction, it makes this a most rewarding disc for the admirers of Vaughan Williams and Finzi.
– MusicWeb International