Janet Hilton was born in Liverpool and studied clarinet in Manchester and Vienna. Since making her BBC debut at 20, playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, she has built an international reputation as one of today’s most distinguished clarinettists.
She has enjoyed a career as a celebrated clarinettist, appearing as soloist with most of the major British orchestras, at festivals including Aldeburgh, Bath, City of London, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Harrogate and the BBC Promenade Concerts. In Europe her work has included concertos and recitals in Paris, Vienna, Munich, Hamburg, Rome and Naples, chamber music at the Gstaad Festival and Incontri in Tierra di Sienna. North American appearances have included concertos in Toronto, Ottawa and Colorado Springs, recitals and chamber music in Chicago, North Carolina and in Michigan, where each summer for twenty years she was a member of the Fontana Ensemble.
Janet had a long association with the Lindsay String Quartet, with the pianists Peter Frankl, Keith Swallow and Roger Vignoles, the violist Nobuko Imai and with conductors Neeme Jarvi, Mathias Bamert, Vernon Handley and Norman del Mar.
She has recorded much of the clarinet repertoire in her series of CDs for Chandos and for Clarinet Classics, EMI, BBC, ASV and Naxos. Her recordings include all the clarinet works by Weber, the concertos being recorded with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Neeme Järvi, most of Brahms’ music for clarinet, the Mozart Clarinet Quintet and Kegelstatt Trio, trios for clarinet and viola by Bruch and Schumann, the Bliss Quintet and other concertos by Nielsen and Copland (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra), Stanford (with the Ulster Orchestra), Malcolm Arnold (First Clarinet Concerto with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta) and Finzi. For Clarinet Classics Janet recorded four concertos that were written for her by Dame Elizabeth Maconchy, Alun Hoddinott, John McCabe and Edward Harper (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Rumon Gamba). Her recording of the Finzi Clarinet Concerto with the then BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (now BBC Philharmonic) was issued by the BBC as one of a series of distinguished performances drawn from its archives. Most recently Naxos released her recording of the three clarinet sonatas by Max Reger with the German pianist Jakob Fichert.
Now a leading clarinet teacher, Janet headed the woodwind department at Birmingham Conservatoire from 1993 until 1998, when she became Head of Woodwind at the Royal College of Music London. After handing over responsibility for the department in 2010, she continues to teach part-time at the RCM, combining it with her playing career and international teaching and masterclasses, most recently at the Paris Conservatoire, at American universities and in Norway, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Janet Hilton has served on the juries of a number of leading competitions in England, Ireland, Italy and Canada.
She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire and an associate of the Royal Manchester College of Music.