Clair de Lune; La Fille aux cheveux de lin
Liebesleid; Schön Rosmarin
Maria Theresia von Paradis/Samuel Dushkin
Sicilienne; Après un rêve
Lied ohne Worte: Op.3 No.2
Hungarian Dance No.1
Michael Collins Clarinet
Michael McHale Piano
Chandos CHAN 20147
Almost all the pieces here (some famous, some obscure) are short arrangements. The exception is Gaubert’s seven minute Fantasie, written in 1911 for clarinet as the Paris Conservatoire student exam work to succeed Debussy’s First Rhapsody. It is also the most virtuosic element of this record, along with Franck’s Sonata. Otherwise the stream of lyrical lollipops flows along pleasantly, if a touch inconsequentially.
The transcriptions give the clarinet extra repertoire but somehow dampen the impact of the music. In most cases the composer’s first instinct for instrumentation was the best. It’s as if Debussy’s Girl With Flaxen Hair had had a rinse through and become a brunette. Schumann’s Traümerei (from Kinderszenen, Scenes of Childhood) on the piano sounds impassioned but with added clarinet it becomes too acid and shrill. Brahms’s first Hungarian Dance, though, is given extra Gipsy verve.
The small works make up two thirds of the programme with the last word given to the Franck Sonata. That has found its way into the cello and flute music cases, as well as the original violin’s, and probably a few more, so Michael Collins’ transcription is in a distinguished line. It is a sonata that sounds fairly good on anything. My own favourite version is for cello, which has a mellowness that manages to avoid giving some of Franck’s gestures a touch of hysteria, especially in the opening movement. The clarinet goes the other way, ramping up the drama to squeaking point. The sound here is at times uncomfortably harsh, not helped by the very brittle timbre of the Steinway at Potton Hall, Suffolk, which emphasises the detail but means that the record does not always reflect its title.
Michael Collins is a musician of enormous skill and sensitivity. His playing is utterly dependable and any of these performances would grace a live recital and be deservedly applauded. Perhaps that is the best place for the record: as a souvenir of a delightful evening in the company of a player of great distinction.