Michael Collins

The Virtuoso Clarinet

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The Virtuoso Clarinet, promises the title of this album, and few could argue that it does not deliver: the blazing runs of the Italian pieces here stretch the instrument to its limits, and clarinetist Michael Collins doesn't miss a step. Look no farther than the variations in Alamiro Giampieri's Il carnevale di Venezia, a thoroughly retrospective work that was composed in 1948 but looks back to the traveling virtuoso days of the 19th century. The other Italian work, Donato Lovreglio's Fantasia da concerto su motivi de "La traviata" de G. Verdi, Op. 45, represents a different strain of 19th century music, the popular operatic transcription. Both of those are unusual works, and perhaps an even greater feat than Collins' sheer technical mastery is the digging he undertook to put together an entertaining program that showcases not only virtuosity, but virtuosity of various kinds. Some of these pieces are known to wind students, but they've rarely been heard together as they are here, and a work like André Messager's Solo de concours (Competition Solo) gains from being surrounded by works that exploit the clarinet in a different way. Most of the music is originally for clarinet (the arrangement of Milhaud's Scaramouche, Op. 165b, for clarinet and piano is the composer's own), and the two transcriptions, of Gershwin's Three Preludes and Rachmaninov's Vocalise, each add something to the clarinet vocabulary on display. With suitably circumspect accompaniment from Piers Lane, superb engineering from Chandos, and informative booklet notes (in English, German, and French), this is a recital of instrumental fireworks that anyone might enjoy.

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