Just a few days ago I wrote favourable words about Andrew Manze’s Onyx recording of Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony, mentioning imminent ones of it from Michael Collins and Martyn Brabbins.
Here’s the Collins, his recording debut as a podium-standing conductor, and he’s struck gold, for this is a wonderful account of VW’s idyllic and transporting Fifth – spacious, richly moulded, eloquent, and played beautifully and sensitively by the Philharmonia, superbly engineered by Mike Hatch in Watford’s Colosseum, July last year, Robert Suff producing. Collins has the measure of the music’s radiant horizons, breadth, scamper and snipes (Scherzo), soul (slow movement, with poetic Philharmonia woodwinds), and the majesty of the outer-movement climaxes are beamed towards with certainty to send a shiver down the spine. Collins’s is a version of this solace-inducing masterpiece that I would not want to be without; that said, bring on the Brabbins (Hyperion in November) and, worryingly, I have not heard Mark Elder’s Hallé release.
I have long had a soft spot for Gerald Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto. Collins recorded it for Chandos several years ago (directing the BBCSO). Now with the Philharmonia’s strings this re-make confirms his affinity with the melodiousness and poignancy of Finzi’s music. Collins gives a mellifluous and searching account of the solo part, heartbreaking in the central Adagio, then joyous in the Finale, the latter with a gloriously perky tune that stays in the mind long afterwards. BIS-2367 [SACD].