Michael Collins

World-renowned clarinettist Michael Collins is in great demand not only as a soloist but also in chamber music and increasingly as a conductor, after becoming the principal conductor of the City of London Sinfonia in 2010. His prolific discography, for which he is now exclusively signed to Chandos, consists of numerous gems of the clarinet repertoire which he recorded with the pianist Michael McHale and most notably, an album of British Clarinet Concertos which he played and directed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Collins made a name for himself as a 16-year-old virtuoso after winning the woodwind prize of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1978. Three years later he became a member of the acclaimed and long-standing Nash Ensemble and the London Sinfonietta. He had his American début at the age of 22 in Carnegie Hall, shortly after winning the Concert Artists’ Guild of New York Award. He was principal clarinettist of the Philharmonia Orchestra between 1987 and 1995, during which time he also taught at his alma mater, the Royal College of Music. Since then, he has performed with many of the world’s greatest orchestras, among them the Philadelphia Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

In addition, he has worked with some of music’s most celebrated 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. As well as conducting the City of London Sinfonia, Collins has also appeared as guest conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, London Mozart Players, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony and Johannesburg Philharmonic.

Collins premiered the clarinet concertos of John Adams, Elliott Carter and Richard Rodney Bennett as well as Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Riffs and Refrains, which he has performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Residentie Orchestra, Flanders Philharmonic and Helsinki Philharmonic.  

A distinguished ambassador for the clarinet, Collins’ sensitivity and astounding technical brilliance sets him apart as a clarinettist of the most esteemed stature and he continues to inspire the younger generations of musicians worldwide.

Photo credit: Evy Ottermans, courtesy of Handelsbeurs

Michael Collins plays (and conducts) with an irresistible exuberance that I’ve not heard equalled.

Michael McHale

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