His illustrious career was foreseen when, at the age of 16, Michael won the first ever BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition. Later, as a student at the Royal College of Music, he was asked to leave at the end of the second year because he had joined the Nash Ensemble and the London Sinfonietta and was already touring with them. But shortly afterwards he was asked to return as a teacher!
At the age of 22 Michael made his US debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall and since then has performed with many of the world’s most significant orchestras. He has the distinction of being the most frequently invited wind soloist to the BBC Proms.
As a chamber musician Michael has collaborated with many distinguished musicians including the Belcea, Takács and Endellion String Quartets, pianists Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, Steven Isserlis, András Schiff and Piers Lane and violinist Joshua Bell. His own ensemble, London Winds, which would have been playing for us as part of our 75th season, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. This group has had many high calibre engagements such as BBC Proms, the Edinburgh, Cheltenham and City of London festivals and the Bath Mozartfest.
Michael Collins has given premières of works such as John Adams Gnarly Buttons, Elliot Carter’s Clarinet Concerto, Brett Dean’s Ariel’s Music and Turnage’s Riffs and Refrains. In 2007 he received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year Award in recognition of his pivotal role in premièring repertoire by some of today’s most highly regarded composers.
In recent years Michael has become increasingly highly regarded as a conductor. He was Principal Conductor of the London Sinfonia from 2010-2018 and is Artistic Director of the London Mozart Players. Recent guest conducting and play-directing highlights have included engagements with the Melbourne Symphony, BBCSO and Zurich Chamber Orchestras. When asked in interview about this unexpected addition to his CV, he explained that in his experience, concertos are short-changed on rehearsal time. Most conductors want to spend more time on the symphony and often the concerto soloist is only given a quick run through, with no time to sort out phrasing, style and interplay. Despite the obvious difficulties of holding a clarinet while conducting, he feels he achieves a more intimate connection with the orchestra and that players feel more involved.
Michael constantly receives the highest critical acclaim for his prolific recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, EMI, Sony and Chandos. He has released 7 CDs with pianist Michael McHale with whom he has performed at Wigmore Hall during Lockdown last year.
Michael’s diary was completely wiped out in March 2020 but he gave a Wigmore Hall streamed concert with Michael McHale in June and since then has given several more Wigmore Hall performances. He has been recording and in October was able to perform in Sweden. His diary is finally getting back to normal after a very tough year.
In January of this year Michael presented the debut performance of Wigmore Soloists, a new Associate Ensemble funded by Wigmore Hall. Led by Michael and violinist Isabelle van Keulen, Wigmore Soloists will see leading instrumentalists coming together to perform a wide range of chamber music repertoire from duets to works for up to 10 musicians.