Beethoven & Mozart: Clarinet Concertos (Michael Collins)

Concerto for Clarinet (violin) and Orchestra in D major, op.61 (arr. By Mikhail Pletnev)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A major, K.622
Michael Collins, soloist
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor
DG 457 652-2
Purchase via RNO iTunes


BBC Music

Collins's interpretation of the Mozart Concerto, for which he uses a basset clarinet, is of the highest order and highly recommended.


When Michael Collins has given so many inspired performances in concert of Mozart's supreme masterpiece, it is surprising that we have had to wait so long for a recording from him. Yet what a bonus this new issue now brings, a daring transcription for the clarinet by Pletnev of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. ... One can readily enjoy the music in a new way, with the warmth of Beethoven's lyricism the more richly brought out in clarinet tone. ... This is as masterful a reading as there is in the catalogue. ... It is a reading not just elegant but powerful, too, as well as deeply poetic in the slow movement. The playing of the Russian National Orchestra under Pletnev is refined and elegant to match. This is a unique and generous coupling which brings out the mastery of this brilliant artist more compellingly than ever.


... The quality of Pletnev's work as an arranger speaks for itself. His adaptation shows a fine sense of style. ... This is in every respect a compelling reading of what we have always known as the Beethoven Violin Concerto, doing full justice to the lyrical, dramatic, contemplative, and brilliant aspects of the music, and the highest compliment I can pay the arranger is to say that his version sounds like a work written in the first place for the clarinet. It is also very effectively and cleanly recorded, and comes in a most attractive coupling with as good a version of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto as I have heard. ... There is a splendid sense of expressive readiness about Collins's sprightly shaping of the solo part, with its clear distinction between detached phrases and those Mozart marked with legato slurs, and his delicacy reaps rich rewards in the slow movement, where the final statement of the theme is given with gorgeously soft yet always well-supported tone. ... Whether Mozart's old clarinet concerto or Beethoven's new one is your main interest, I do not think you could do better than invest in this stimulating and delightful disc.

Here, Pletnev has transcribed a clarinet version of Beethoven's Violin Concerto. The transcription is wholly successful. The clarinet lends itself seamlessly to the concerto, providing the piece with a round introspection not present in either the violin or piano versions. Collins' playing is robust and precise without being sentimental or overtly showy. Pletnev's direction is thoroughly informed and executed and the Russians, beautifully lush and comfortable.

The Beethoven is a triumph, but coupled with it is the "alpha es et O" of clarinet pieces, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622. Gramophone magazine selects this performance as the best of the Mozart Concerto recordings, and with good reason. Collins is bright and cutting edge in its streamlining. Pletnev spins off perhaps the best modern instrument recording that I have heard... I would encourage any clarinetophile to run, not walk, out and get this music.

What They’re Saying

"Like everything else about how Pletnev runs this orchestra, he takes nothing for granted... And also like everything else about this remarkable organization, he makes it seem not just new but newly worthwhile."

Los Angeles Times