Michael Collins

Clarinet / Conductor

At a glance

Michael Collins

Clarinet / Conductor

Brilliant playing in every sense
Classic FM


Biography —

Michael Collins is one of the most complete musicians of his generation. With a continuing, distinguished career as a soloist, he has in recent years also become highly regarded as a conductor. Recent guest conducting and play-directing highlights have included engagements with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. From 2010 – 2018 he was the Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia.

Recent highlights include a return to the Philharmonia Orchestra as conductor; performances worldwide with orchestras including Minnesota Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Rheinische Philharmonie, Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, and tours in South Africa, Australia (with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra), Japan and Mexico (with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional). This year Michael will make his conducting debut with the English Chamber Orchestra and perform with the London Mozart Players. In July 2018 he performed at the BBC Young Musician 40th Anniversary BBC Prom. He also recently hosted a series of ‘Michael Collins and Friends’ concerts at LSO St Luke’s, recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3, featuring the Heath Quartet, Leonard Elschenbroich, Lawrence Power and Michael McHale.

Michael Collins has been committed to expanding the repertoire of the clarinet for many years. He has given premières of works such as John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons, Elliott Carter’s Clarinet Concerto – for which he won a Gramophone award for his recording on Deutsche Grammophon – and Brett Dean’s Ariel’s Music and Turnage’s Riffs and Refrains, which was commissioned by the Hallé Orchestra. Collins has gone on to perform Turnage’s work with the Residentie Orkest, Royal Flanders and Helsinki Philharmonics, as well as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Collins has received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year Award in 2007 in recognition of his pivotal role in premièring repertoire by some of today’s most highly regarded composers.

In great demand as a chamber musician, Collins performs regularly with the Borodin, Heath and Belcea quartets, András Schiff, Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, Lars Vogt, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis. His ensemble, London Winds, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2018 and the group maintains a busy diary with high calibre engagements such as the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh Festival, Edinburgh Festival, City of London Festival, Cheltenham International Festival and Bath Mozartfest. During the 2019-20 season he will be an Artist in Residence at the Wigmore Hall which will include concerts with Stephen Hough, the Vienna Piano Trio, Leonard Elschenbroich, Michael McHale and the Borodin Quartet.

Michael Collins records for Chandos, and in his prolific recording career he has covered an extraordinarily wide range of solo repertoire, which also includes releases on Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, EMI and Sony. He is one of the world’s most recorded clarinettists, having made no fewer than twenty discs for Chandos alone. His most recent disc, released May 2019, is of Concertante works by Richard Strauss, with Collins as conductor and soloist, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tasmin Little, Julie Price and Michael McHale. Other recent releases include a disc of Crusell Clarinet Concertos with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, which was Gramophone Magazine’s ‘Recording of the Month’ in June 2018 and was nominated for BBC Music Magazine Award; a disc of British Clarinet Concertos with the BBC Symphony Orchestra which features Collins as soloist and conductor, and two discs with pianist Michael McHale: the first of Brahms and Reinicke Clarinet Sonatas and the second of Reger Clarinet Sonatas. In 2017 he was awarded a Grammy for his disc ‘Shakespeare Songs’ with Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano (‘Best Classical Solo Vocal Album’).

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2015, Michael Collins was awarded an MBE for his services to music. He plays on Yamaha clarinets.

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Reviews —

Collins's breath control and easy virtuosity [...] had to be heard to be believed. An exhilarating hour of music-making.

The Sunday Times; from Michael's recital with pianist Michael McHale at Bath Mozartfest, November 2016

Michael Collins is on superb musical and technical form… matchless performances.”

International Record Review

There’s no denying that Collins is a master of his instrument; his technique is faultless.

Fanfare Magazine

Gorgeous-toned musicianship

BBC Music Magazine

Collins floats exquisitely limpid lines in the graceful, contrapuntal Adagio, allowing it effortlessly to unfold

Classic FM

...one of the most glorious clarinettists in the world today, a concerto soloist of brilliance, a chamber musician of enormous sensitivity.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Throughout, Michael Collins is in his element, relishing every twist and turn of the music’s consistently imaginative invention.


The flow of the opening melody was beautifully caught by Collins and there was a sense of freedom in his playing... This well-contrasted programme found clarinet and piano as a congenial combination and featured two artists of taste and personality, Michael Collins and Michael McHale, who know each other’s playing so well

Classical Source

...he still maintains that youthful enthusiasm in every note that he plays... Messager's Solo de Concours completely took the breath away and elicited the loudest cheer that I have heard in the Dora Stoutzker Hall.

South Wales Argus

The performance itself was outstanding, possibly the finest I have ever heard… Their resourcefulness vividly captured the entire emotional and expressive range of the music, from the complex rhythms found in the four tutti movements to the utter serenity of the two extremely slow duets.

Surrey Advertiser

It’s a winner whichever way you look at it… to hear [Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto] in such a glorious performance is a real joy… one of the world’s truly great clarinettists.

Limelight Magazine

Collins’s clarinet-playing mesmerises the ear: the closing phrase of Stanford’s ‘Caoine’ movement shows what a player in this league can convey in just two quiet notes.

BBC Music Magazine

Michael Collins plays (and conducts) them with an irresistible exuberance that I’ve not heard equalled.


It’s hard to imagine this varied programme better played than it is here by Collins and Michael McHale. They’re technically impeccable and stylistically flexible.

BBC Music Magazine

Selected Discography —

The Lyrical Clarinet, Vol. 3

Once again, one has to salute the extraordinary facility and irresistibly seductive, lyrical grace of Collins' playing.

Gramophone Magazine

R Strauss: Concertante Works

A dedicated performance by Collins

Gramophone Magazine

Crusell: Clarinet Concertos

His faultless clarity and articulation, especially at some of the speeds he adopts, are things to marvel at.

Gramophone Magazine; 'Recording of the Month', June 2018

Reger: Clarinet Sonatas

Michael Collins' performance of Reger is mesmerising. 5*

BBC Music Magazine

The Lyrical Clarinet, Vol. 2

Imaginative, inspired playing by a leading clarinettist of a range of works


Brahms & Reinecke Clarinet Sonatas

Collins, with Mchale, offers joyous performances of these two works... a most desirable issue


Brahms: Cello Sonatas and Clarinet Trio

Collins floats exquisitely limpid lines in the graceful, contrapuntal Adagio, allowing it effortlessly to unfold.

BBC Music Magazine

Brahms: Clarinet Quintet (Brodsky Quartet)

...supreme vigour, clarity and refinement. Finely recorded, even by Collins and the Brodsky's standards.


Lutoslawski Orchestra Works Vol. 4

Collins proves as brilliant a soloist as any... Highly recommended.


British Clarinet Concertos

Collins's playing is compelling throughout... Collins shows off not only his splendid agility but also the affecting pathos of the closing pages of the score.

See full discography

Related Media —

Michael Collins: The Lyrical Clarinet

Clarinettist Michael Collins talks about his latest collection of clarinet music for Chandos Records, 'The Lyrical Clarinet', featuring sonatas by Saint-Saëns and Poulenc, plus works by Burgmüller, Finzi, Baermann, Pärt and Reade. View on YouTube

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Contact —


  • Costa Peristianis