Practically perfect Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven Egmont overture from Michael Collins, basset clarinet with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in fine form, conducted by Osmo Vänska.

A confident rendition of the Egmont overture, its interplay of light and dark recalling and building on Beethoven’s various overtures for his opera Fidelio, written around five years earlier.

Michael Collins joined the orchestra with his basset clarinet to play one of the reconstructions of Mozart’s score including the lowest four notes. He also added some very discrete and appropriate ornamentations of his own. Mozart’s music is celestially perfect as well as being a technical workout; tonight’s performance placed the sublime counterpoint in the human context and, in so doing, achieved what has been rare this Prom season, the ecstatic attention of the whole hall.

Applause broke the spell a little after the conductor and soloist lowered their arms after the second movement but paved the way for the relief and release of the finale...

The tone of Michael Collins playing was smooth and his keying even. Being close enough to the real instrument, I could hear the reed changing through the performance.

Mozart’s last concerto is a strange and beautiful work, like some of his piano concertos, there’s a sense it’s just a set of technical exercises. Yet it shares with some other of Mozart’s final works the sense that the composer had looked at heavenly perfection despite his earthly predicaments and wished to show that in his music.

A performance for the archive.

Michael Collins and the BBC SO were very well received and played an encore, Gerald Finzi’s poetic Romance.

Beethoven: Egmont – overture
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major
Delius: Eventyr (Once Upon a Time)
Nielsen: Symphony No. 5
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänska, conductor
Michael Collins, basset clarinet