Since then Michael Collins has performed as a soloist with many of the world's major orchestras, including the Philadelphia, NHK Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, City of Birmingham Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra. Indisputably one of the leading clarinettists of his generation, Collins has formed close alliances with conductors such as Rattle, Dutoit, Sinopoli, Salonen, Slatkin and Otaka.
In May 2007 he won the Royal Philharmonic Society's Instrumentalist of the Year Award, placing him amongst past recipients of the award who include Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia and Andras Schiff. Michael Collins has done much to expand the clarinet repertoire, commissioning and premiering repertoire by some of today's most highly regarded composers. Such performances have included the world premiere of John Adams' Clarinet Concerto Gnarly Buttons with the London Sinfonietta conducted by the composer and since performed many times.
He has also given the UK and Dutch premières of Elliott Carter's Clarinet Concerto and Mark Anthony Turnage wrote his concerto Riffs and Refrains for him. Commissioned by the Hallé Orchestra and premiered in February 2005, Collins now has the Dutch and Scandinavian premieres scheduled for 2007/8 with the Residentie Orkest and Helsinki Philharmonic respectively. Following the world premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür's Double Concerto for Violin and Clarinet Noesis with the Detroit Symphony and Neeme Järvi in June 2005, Michael Collins and Isabelle van Keulen (the work's dedicatees) have given subsequent performances of the concerto with the Philharmonia under Paavo Järvi, the Helsinki Philharmonic under Hugh Wolff, the MDR Leipzig under John Storgårds and the Netherlands Philharmonic under Claus Peter Flor.
Michael Collins is also in demand as a chamber musician, regularly performing with the Belcea Quartet, Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Mikhail Pletnev, Lars Vogt, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis. In 1988 he founded London Winds who have since appeared regularly throughout the UK and at many international festivals, including the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, City of London, Cheltenham Festival, Bath Mozartfest, Leif Ove Andsnes' Risor Chamber Music Festival in Norway and the Delft Festival.
Michael Collins' many recordings include John Adams' Gnarly Buttons with the London Sinfonietta, conducted by the composer, a London Winds' Ligeti disc for Sony Classical (nominated for a Grammy award in 1999) and a disc of Brahms, Schumann and Frühling clarinet trios with Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough for BMG. His recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto (arranged for clarinet by Mikhail Pletnev) coupled with Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with the Russian National Orchestra and Pletnev was released by Deutsche Grammophon to great critical acclaim. London Winds most recent release is the first recording in a new partnership with the label Onyx, in which they marked the 2006 Mozart anniversary year with a disc of Mozart wind serenades.