WORKS: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622
PERFORMER: Michael Collins (clarinet, basset clarinet); Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 457 652-2
This unique coupling features the premiere recording of an audacious transcription of the Beethoven Violin Concerto which has already inspired some lively discussion. The concept itself is neither new nor especially controversial since there are numerous examples of works with interchangeable wind and string parts, though there are clearly lines to be drawn, particularly where the music becomes idiomatically conceived. Michael Collins is unquestionably one of the leading soloists of his generation and, though his playing here could hardly be more persuasive, the result, in my view, is ultimately unsuccessful and leaves the feeling that, while this is a fascinating experiment, it does not compare with the original.
Collins’s interpretation of the Mozart Concerto, for which he uses a basset clarinet, is of the highest order and highly recommended. Unlike many distinguished recordings of the past, he focuses less on the autumnal, melancholy aspects of the music, but takes a more upbeat approach at slightly faster tempi and incorporates more staccato passages than usual. His version makes very effective use of the extra range available to the basset clarinet and adopts some extensive stylish ornamentation and cadenzas which may surprise those used to the more traditional recordings. Tim Payne