Clarinettist Janet Hilton enjoys worldwide recognition through her extensive series of recordings for Chandos, ASV, EMI, BBC Classics, Clarinet Classics and Naxos and appearances in many countries. She is best known as a soloist and in chamber music, but her diverse career has encompassed orchestral playing and teaching.
Throughout her career her exceptional musicianship and the eloquence of her playing have constantly been reflected in reviews at home and abroad. The Financial Times praised “the rare lightness and grace” of her playing and “the rapt eloquence of her phrasing, shaped with the quiet freedom of a great singer.” The New York Times ascribed to her “the kind of musical power that supersedes mere nervous energy.” For the Guardian it was as “a soloist who has no inhibitions about communicating with her audience eloquently and directly in her own persona” that her performance was exceptional and Michael Kennedy, in the Sunday Telegraph, wrote of a “perfect a blend of emotion and technique” in a performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet.
Born in Liverpool Janet won a scholarship at the age of 15 to the Royal Manchester (now Royal Northern) College of Music , where she studied clarinet and singing. Another scholarship took her to Vienna for postgraduate study.
First prize in a national competition for artists at the beginning of their careers led to her BBC debut in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and many more broadcasts, solo and chamber concerts throughout Britain. Building her career from this start, she has played throughout Britain at festivals including Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, City of London and the BBC Proms, where she premiered the Clarinet Concerto by John McCabe. Her career-long partnership with the Lindsay String Quartet until their retirement included recordings of the quintets by Mozart, Weber, Brahms and Bliss. Other chamber music partners have been the Pauk, Kirshbaum, Frankl Trio, Steven Isserlis and Nobuko Imai. Her duo partnership with pianist Sarah Beth Briggs extends to the Stadler Trio with violist Robin Ireland. She is a member of the Manchester-based flexible chamber group, the Pleyel Ensemble
Her international solo career has taken her all over Europe, including an extensive tour of capitals and major cities with soprano Margaret Price, and to Canada and the USA, where for eighteen years she was a member of the Michigan-based Fontana ensemble at their summer festival.
Janet’s extensive discography includes concertos by Weber, Copland, Nielsen, Stanford, Malcolm Arnold, Gerald Finzi and four concertos written for her by John McCabe, Elizabeth Maconchy, Edward Harper and Alun Hoddinott. Her partners in these were the City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Scottish National, Ulster, BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta , with conductors Neeme Jarvi, Mathias Bamert, Vernon Handley, Bryden Thomson , Rumon Gamba and Norman del Mar. Her most recent recordings are of the clarinet sonatas by Max Reger, with pianist Jakob Fichert on the Naxos label, and an album of music for solo clarinet, Flying Solo, for Clarinet Classics.
Other composers whom she has commissioned include Malcolm Arnold, Iain Hamilton Howard Blake and Paul Read.
Janet’s orchestral career has included positions as principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Kent Opera and Manchester Camerata. For some time she was the London Sinfonietta ‘s regular saxophonist. While living in the USA she played regularly with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota.
A distinguished teacher, Janet has taught at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Birmingham Conservatoire and, from 1998 Royal College of Music London where she was Head of Woodwind and director of the wind ensemble for ten years and still continues to teach.
In demand internationally for master classes, Janet has made three tours of Australian music conservatoires, and taught at the Paris Conservatoire, the Cleveland Institute and University of Indiana Bloomington, USA, Malmö Conservatoire and at the conservatoire in Guangzhou in China. She has served on international competition juries in Canada, Italy and Ireland.
Janet is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.