Brian O'Kane, Michael McHale & Michael Collins
CIT Cork School of Music
Thu 26 May 2016 - 8:00 pm
Virtuoso clarinettist Michael Collins joins Belfast-born pianist Michael McHale and Cork native Brian O’Kane on cello for a sumptous soirée of delectable chamber music, featuring works by Saint-Saëns, Brahms and Debussy.
Saint-Saëns: Sonata for cello and piano in C minor Op.32
Brahms: Sonata for clarinet and piano in E flat major Op.102 No.2
Debussy: ‘Estampes’ for solo piano (II. Soirée dans Grenade; III. Jardins sous la pluie)
Brahms: Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in A minor Op.114
Brian O’Kane is quickly establishing himself as one of the finest Irish musicians of his generation and is in increasing demand as both a soloist and chamber musician. He came to prominence by taking first prize at the Windsor Festival International String Competition and is also a former prize-winner of the Royal Overseas League Competition. A former winner of the Accenture Bursary Award and Camerata Ireland Young Musician Award. In 2008, Brian performed with Camerata Ireland in Dublin’s National Concert Hall under Barry Douglas and with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Highgrove before the Prince of Wales. He appeared again with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy at the 2009 Windsor Festival. Brian has recently been awarded the National Concert Hall of Ireland’s ‘Rising Star’ award.
An avid chamber musician, Brian has toured extensively throughout the Far East, Australasia and Europe. He has collaborated with a wide variety of artists such as the Vanbrugh Quartet, Michael Collins, Ian Bostridge, Pekka Kuusisto and Alison Balsom. He enjoys playing as a founding member of the Cappa Ensemble who are currently on the Young Artist roster of Ireland’s Music Network and as a member of the Navarra Quartet. Also a keen explorer of contemporary music, he has worked closely with composers such as Wilson, Kancheli, Auerbach and Widmann. Brian has appeared at many festivals and concert halls throughout the world, including the West Cork, Drumcliffe, Edinburgh, Verbier, Radio France-Montpellier and Clandeboye Festivals, Bridgewater Hall, St. John’s Smith Square, the Barbican, Bozar – Brussels, Suntory Hall – Tokyo and has been broadcast on RTE Lyric FM, BBC Radio 3, Radio New Zealand and Radio France. In 2012, Brian made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland live on radio and his Wigmore Hall debut as a Maisie Lewis Young Artist. He appeared again at the Wigmore Hall in 2013 as a Kirckman Concert Society Young Artist.
An award winning graduate of both the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Brian‘s biggest influences have come from Louise Hopkins and at the International Musicians Seminars, Prussia Cove from studies with Ralph Kirshbaum, Gabor Takacs-Nagy and Steven Isserlis. During his studies, Brian was extremely grateful for the generous support of the Musicians Benevolent Fund, the Martin Musical Scholarship Fund and the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Brian currently plays on a Francesco Ruggieri cello, made in Cremona c.1690.
Belfast-born Michael McHale is one of Ireland’s leading pianists. Since completing his studies at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, he has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He has performed at many important musical centres including Suntory Hall, Tokyo; Lincoln Center, New York; Symphony Hall, Boston; Konzerthaus, Berlin; Pesti Vigadó, Budapest, and the Ushuaia, Chopiniana and Tanglewood Festivals.
Michael’s début solo album ‘The Irish Piano’ was selected as ‘CD of the Week’ by critic Norman Lebrecht, who described it as “a scintillating recital…fascinating from start to stop”, whilst Gramophone praised “the singing sensibility of McHale’s sensitive and polished pianism”. He has performed as soloist with the Hallé, Minnesota, Bournemouth Symphony and Moscow Symphony orchestras, the Teatro Colon Orchestra, Discovery Ensemble, London Mozart Players and all five of the major Irish orchestras in repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Gershwin, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov.
A commitment to new music has seen Michael give first performances and recordings of music by composers including Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov, John Tavener, Luke Bedford and Ian Wilson, as well as concerto world premières by Irish composers Garrett Sholdice (with Gábor Takács-Nagy and the Irish Chamber Orchestra) and Philip Hammond (with Nicholas Collon and the Ulster Orchestra for BBC Radio 3).
His début solo recitals in the Wigmore Hall, London, the National Concert Hall, Dublin, and the Phillips Collection, Washington DC received great public and critical acclaim, with the Washington Post praising his “bravura playing in the music of Franz Liszt” and his “beautifully proportioned and energetic account of Mozart’s Sonata in C minor, K.457”.
2015 saw the release of a second solo CD, ‘Miniatures and Modulations’, of music by Philip Hammond on the Grand Piano label (awarded a 5* review by BBC Music) and a disc of clarinet sonatas by Brahms and Reinecke with Michael Collins for Chandos (Editor’s Choice in Gramophone). Upcoming projects include a first concerto CD recording with the RTÉ NSO and conductor Courtney Lewis, return visits to Camerata Pacifica and Wigmore Hall, London, solo and chamber music recital tours in Ireland and the UK, and a concerto début with Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Florida.
In addition to winning the 2009 Terence Judd/Hallé Award, Michael was awarded the Brennan and Field Prizes at the 2006 AXA Dublin International Piano Competition and the 2005 Camerata Ireland/Accenture Award. His teachers and mentors include John O’Conor, Réamonn Keary, Christopher Elton, Ronan O’Hora and Barry Douglas. Michael enjoys chamber music collaborations with Sir James Galway, Michael Collins, Patricia Rozario and the Vogler Quartet.
Michael Collins‘ dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship have earned him recognition as one of today’s most distinguished artists and a leading exponent of his instrument. At 16 he won the woodwind prize in the first BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, going on to make his US debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall at the age of 22. He has since performed as soloist with many of the world’s most significant orchestras and formed strong links with leading conductors. Collins also has the distinction of being the most frequently invited wind soloist to the BBC Proms, including several appearances at the renowned Last Night of the Proms.
In recent seasons Collins has become increasingly highly regarded as a conductor and in September 2010 took the position of Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia. His success in this role is testament to the natural musicianship and galvanising leadership that is evident in both his playing and conducting. In recent seasons, his conducting highlights have included engagements with the Philharmonia, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, London Mozart Players, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Kymi Sinfonietta, Auckland Philharmonia and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
In 2007, Collins received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year Award, placing him amongst past recipients of the award such as Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia and Andras Schiff. The award was made in recognition of the pivotal role that Collins has played in expanding the clarinet repertoire, commissioning and premièring repertoire by some of today’s most highly regarded composers. He has given world and local premières of John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons, Elliott Carter’s Clarinet Concerto, 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 Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic and London Philharmonic orchestras. In 2009 he appeared at New York’s Mostly Mozart festival, performing Gnarly Buttons under the baton of the composer. In 2008, Collins gave the world première of Elena Kats-Chernin’s clarinet concerto Ornamental Air with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and last season released a recording of the work on the Chandos label with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
In great demand as a chamber musician, Collins performs with musical colleagues such as the Belcea and Takács quartets, Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, Lars Vogt, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis. His Residency at Wigmore Hall saw him in performance with András Schiff, Piers Lane and the Endellion String Quartet. His ensemble, London Winds, celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013, with entirely unchanged membership during that time. 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. Collins is also Artist Director of the Liberation International Music Festival in Jersey.
With a prolific discography, Collins is signed exclusively to Chandos Records and consistently receives the highest critical acclaim for his recordings. His most recent release is British Clarinet Sonatas Vol. 2, recorded with pianist Michael McHale and released in February 2013. Last season, Collins released a disc of British Clarinet Concertos Vol.1, which he play/directed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Collins’s 50th Birthday was celebrated with a Chandos release of Weber Concertos conducted and performed by himself with the City of London Sinfonia.