Michael Collins has, in many ways, inherited the mantle of well known English clarinet virtuosi from the likes and line of Gervase de Peyer and Reginald Kell. Like DePeyer and Kell, Collins began as a top grade orchestral player, who also recently gotten into conducting, whose career truly took off in the role of soloist. Michael Collins has also done what Benny Goodman, Richard Stoltzman and Martin Frost have done; to become an advocate of new, high quality music for his instrument and be on the front line of commissioning composers. This advocacy has produced the Eliott Carter 'Clarinet Concerto' and the John Adams' "Gnarly Buttons" (concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra) among others. Collins is a performer with a supple, liquid and beautiful tone and control of all registers. He has appreciable technique and a good staccato but what I have enjoyed about his playing the most, over the years, is his sensitivity to the phrase and line in music. Collins can play fast and in a very attention getting manner, but never just because he can - always with the inherent qualities of the music first and foremost. This new, wonderful recital on Chandos is a terrific example and an excellent introduction to his artistry. There are some very familar works here. Collins' reading of the Milhaud "Scaramouche", the Rachmaninov "Vocalise" and the Weber "Grand Duo Concertante" (a 'must play' for any undergraduate clarinet performance major) are all exceptionally well done and among the best renditions one could find. For me, however, I truly enjoyed some pieces that I was not that familiar with. The Lovreglio "Fantasia de Concerto" (after themes from Verdi's 'La Traviata') and Giamperi's "Carnival of Venice" variations are great fun to listen to and, I'd bet, to play. Alamiro Giamperi was both the editor/discoverer of the Lovreglio work as well as clarinetist-composer in his own right. They are both very Italian sounding, flourishy delicacies and a great addition to this program. Another "find" but one I did know about was the Jim Cohn arrangement of the Gershwin "Preludes" Originally for piano, they play very well in this version (a few altissimo notes in for showy purposes) and are among Gershwin's best know pieces. The program also includes Messager's "Solo de Concours" from 1899 and the much newer "Carmen Fantasy" by Simon Milton (2009). Both pieces are showy, tuneful and probably quite challlenging to play but they do not leave as strong a musical impression as the Weber, Milhaud or Lovreglio, for example. This package really is a great introduction to the playing of Michael Collins and special mention must be made of Piers Lane, his pianist. Lane's sensitive accompaniment and balance is reminiscent of some of those great recital albums made by de Peyer forty years ago with Cyril Preedy and others. I also do recommend you hear Collins in the John Adams "Gnarly Buttons" - a late twentieth century master work for clarinet played by this master of the clarinet. Chandos' recording and the packaging is characteristically first rate!