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The Virtuoso Clarinet - Volume 2
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Première Rhapsodie (1909-10) [8:35]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Introduction et rondo, Op.72 (1898) [8:06]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Clarinet Sonata (1941-42) [10:42]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Duo concertant, Op.351 (1956) [6:42]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Canzonetta, Op.19 (1888) [3:42]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Sonatina, H356 (1956) [10:52]
Robert MUCZYNSKI (1929-2010)
Time Pieces, Op.43 (1983) [15:53]
Henri RABAUD (1873-1949)
Solo de concours, Op.10 (1901) [5:47]
Michael Collins (clarinet)
Michael McHale (piano)
rec. May 2013, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN10804 [70:22]

For the second volume in Michael Collins’ series there has been a change of pianist: Piers Lane accompanied in volume one, and now Michael McHale does the honours in volume two. The repertoire in this latest release is now largely Franco-American, with the exception of the often Gallic-leaning Martinů.
 
In this volume competition pieces feature heavily, though ones that have happily migrated onto the recital stage. Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie starts with a startling control of dynamics, given that one can barely hear Collins’ opening phrases. Certainly this kind of playing, whilst tonally not at all in the French Tradition, would have piqued the interest of the listening professors around 1911, though whether it is also somewhat self-regarding is open to question. Nevertheless Collins manages to characterise the introverted reverie and the extroverted panache of the writing – more often encountered in orchestral guise – with unerring accuracy. Widor’s Introduction et rondo, Op.72 is another test piece and unfolds from its initial fantasia to reveal some rich operatic elegance. Being a more overt piece than the later Debussy it occupies a different aesthetic altogether but despite the challenges in both clarinet and piano writing, the ease and naturalness of the performance is notable.
 
Milhaud’s Duo concertant clocks in at his Op.351 and mixes saucy Latin American rhythms with some warm lyrical interludes – a work full of Mediterranean fun and sunshine. Pierné’s Canzonetta is the earliest piece in the recital, having been composed in 1888, and even more delightful than the Milhaud – just under four minutes of Gallic charm. Written in 1901, Henri Rabaud’s Solo de concours is full of updated Baroque elements to form a compound of dance patterns and virtuoso charge. One would never have expected to use this word of a performance of anything by Pierné, a composer I admire, incidentally, but some of the writing, and indeed the performance itself, is really quite chic.
 
Martinů’s Sonatina is a late work dating from 1956, busily full but typically embracing both the mordant and serious-minded and also the more capricious elements of his musical personality. Bernstein’s Sonata, by contrast, is a very early work dating from 1941-42, his first published work in fact, and something of a compound of Hindemith and Copland. It has elements that reflect Bernstein’s enthusiasm for jazz but is certainly not a jazz piece. Robert Muczynski died in 2010 but was an admired composer whose Time Pieces of 1983 offers immediate pleasures. It takes in a nocturnal – a kind of Night Hawks for clarinet and piano – as well as a sweetly ingratiating pop song serenade. It’s deliciously played by the Collins-McHale duo.
 
This warmly recorded recital continues the good work established by Collins in the earlier volume.
 
Jonathan Woolf