Michael Collins: ‘It’s got to come from within. From your heart and your very soul’
English clarinettist Michael Collins has a formidable wealth of experience, but, he says, every concert is still a new learning environment
“The more you play, the more you encounter the way they rehearse, the more you understand why. They go into a survival mode, and the easiest way is perhaps not to talk to each other.
“In my experience, working with so many quartets, it’s one of the most dangerous and explosive musical relationships you can come across. But one of the happiest as well, in terms of music-making. And working with so many fine quartets, I learnt so much as well.”
But what if he runs into, say, some tempo choices he just can’t live with? “I have this formula now. It’s the same formula with a new quartet. ‘Hello, how are you?’ Then we talk about the weather, or whatever. And then I ask, ‘Why don’t we just play the piece through without saying anything, so that we can get used to each other’s ways?’
“Now, usually, 30 or 40 minutes later, we’ve been able to analyse each other’s little eccentricities, and, without saying anything, adapt to them. In some cases, and I have to say it’s usually with quartets that are not quite on the top level, they’re the ones that want to talk more, and work out all these little eccentricities, or do something just to be different.
“For me, you don’t try something just to be different. What’s the point? It’s got to come from within. From your heart and your very soul.”
Michael Collins plays the clarinet quintets by Mozart and Brahms with the Heath Quartet at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Friday. greatmusicinirishhouses.com