Commentary and Reviews
Indiana University's Music School at Bloomington passes with high marks on the strength of the two concerts that its New Music Ensemble brought to Symphony Space last month. The ensemble's director is Harvey Sollberger, well-known in New York as a conductor, flutist and composer . . . . The Fox, Eaton, Wuorinen and Copland works were conducted in masterly fashion by Mr. Sollberger.
Under Sollberger's exacting guidance, the ferocious and harrowing performance by a CCP sextet was spellbinding.
The Group for Contemporary Music performed Mario Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 5, superbly conducted by Harvey Sollberger.
The Webern Konzert, Op. 24, received a marvelous ensemble reading under Harvey Sollberger, and served to give both target and perspective to all who toil in these strange new fields.
A lot of credit must go to the way the piece was put together . . . to the excellent ensemble under Harvey Sollberger.
Conductor Harvey Sollberger read well and knew his score well enough to employ a tasteful rubato here and there . . . in this fine performance [Schoenberg Suite].
The numerous performers included Messrs. Wuorinen and Sollberger, who conducted what seemed to be carefully prepared performances with authority and spirit.
Webern's Sechs Gesange, Op. 14, strongly guided by Harvey Sollberger and well-sung by Valarie Lamoree were refreshingly full of cool air and balanced motion.
. . . especially a revelatory reading of the Ode to Napoleon by the Group for Contemporary Music at Columbia University (conducted by Harvey Sollberger).
The Wolpe, a setting of texts by Holderlin, Herodotus and Robert Creeley, succeeds admirably in suggesting both seriousness and puckishness in the context of a determinedly abstract idiom – and again this performance, this time under Mr. Sollberger, seemed to serve the music well.
The other sizable work on the program was Donald Martino's Notturno (1973). . . It is beautifully-tailored and made good listening in the performance led by Harvey Sollberger.
The performance, characteristic of the Group's care for such matters, was excellent. Fred Sherry, cellist; Donald Palma, contrabassist; Howard Crook, tenor, and Philip Larson, bass, were positively virtuosic in their roles under the direction of Harvey Sollberger. . . . played by a skilled septet of instrumentalists under Mr. Sollberger's direction the music (Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat) made its inevitable brilliant effect.
Overall, though, Reynolds' work is serious and original. Skillfully conducted by Harvey Sollberger and performed with conviction by the Group for Contemporary Music, it stood respectably next to a fine performance – also conducted by Sollberger – of an unquestioned multi-media masterpiece, Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat.
The performance was an astonishingly finished one, considering that Syringa was completed barely a month ago. Jan DeGaetsani and Thomas Paul were the assured soloists, while the musicians under Harvey Sollberger's direction seemed to catch the diaphonously ethereal quality of the piece to perfection.
Conductor Harvey Sollberger began the evening with a searing performance of Edgard Varese's landmark work, Integrales, composed in 1926. . . . The second half began with the first New York performance of George Perle's Concertino for piano, winds and percussion. Pianist Robert Miller played with great rhythmic drive and the excellent ensemble under Sollberger met him at every turn.
Harvey Sollberger led an account of Sessions' Concertino so crowded with thrilling moments that the 92nd Street Y audience clamored for more and was rewarded with an encore of the piece's finale.
The performance (of Carter's Syringa) by Jan DeGaetani, Thomas Paul, Speculum Musicae and the Group for Contemporary Music, conducted by Harvey Sollberger, is accurate, effective and lyrical.
This is the premiere recording of Syringa. All forces are very effective here. Sollberger has an understanding of the work that should in every way please the composer.
And Elliott Carter's Elizabeth Bishop cycle, A Mirror on Which to Dwell, for soprano and nine instruments, was given a bewitching performance. A critic sometimes approaches with apprehension a work that at its premiere he made much of, as I did of A Mirror six years ago. But after this performance – conducted by Harvey Sollberger, with Lucy Shelton a precise and sensitive soloist – I thought I'd made too little of it then.
The most successfully handled piece of the evening may have been Elliott Carter's A Mirror on Which to Dwell. . . . Lucy Shelton negotiated its vocal difficulties impressively, and Harvey Sollberger, the conductor, kept Mr. Carter's rich inner textures all of a piece.
And Edgard Varese's Ionisation, with 13 percussionists playing 35 instruments, was a five-minute tour de force. It was led so skillfully by Harvey Sollberger, and played with such joyful energy, that the entire piece was encored.
Music of surpassing delicacy and unsparing toughness, it (Seymour Shifrin's In Eius Memoriam) has not been better played than it was under Sollberger's direction.
A quarter century ago, the work (Berg's Kammerkonzert) seemed problematical, difficult to balance, even graceless. (More so, no doubt in 1927, when it had its first performance.) The epithets will surprise young people who learn it in performances as confident, as graceful, as romantic as Speculum's – or the Group for Contemporary Music's in 1981, with Benjamin Hudson the violinist, Robert Black the pianist and Mr. Sollberger the conductor.
The surprises (in Roger Reynolds's Mistral) were abetted, if not quite guaranteed, by the way conductor Harvey Sollberger scaled down his cues for violence below conductorial norms. In other words, he didn't give away very much of the game. . . . Their performance was not only muscular and powerful when the wind blew its damnedest but also luminously lyrical when calm reigned.
Sollberger and company embraced, then conquered, then merged with the complicated music. The result (in Berg's Chamber Concerto) was no less than stunning. For this one Sollberger required his entire ensemble, and he was very much in command. His players charged into that music and raised it to a glow. Quite remarkable. Worthy of Alice Tully Hall. Worthy of Indiana University's School of Music. Worthy of Alban Berg.
This performance (of Jay Alan Yim's Moments of Rising Mist) was conducted by Harvey Sollberger with what appeared to be scrupulous care, so that small ensemble coordinations made impact.
Thursday evening revealed, too, the inherent splendors of the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, 27 members of which made their local debut Thursday. Their playing represents a miraculous combination of commitment and clarity. Composer-flutist Sollberger may have adopted a somewhat avian approach to conducting, all flapping arms, but his leadership was alert and responsive.
COMPUTER FEST MIXES GOOD AND BAD. The best of the Festival (sponsored by the San Francisco Symphony) was its live performances. Thursday, Harvey Sollberger led the crack New Music Ensemble from Indiana University in a varied program with some truly distinguished scores, especially Yannis Xenakis's masterly Palimpsest.
Thursday night's New Music Ensemble concert showed both the virtuosity and subtlety of that excellent ensemble. Harvey Sollberger fashioned a wonderfully colorful and exciting evening of newness, and the Musical Arts Center heard sounds, sadly enough, it usually lacks. . . . Sollberger conducted the work (Carter's A Mirror on Which to Dwell) with an enthusiasm and sense of detail that was concise and energetic, and he helped produce a memorable performance. . . . The NME is consistently the best performing ensemble at Indiana University, and the one with the best repertoire. This was a first-rate musical event that, had it occurred in New York or San Francisco, would have drawn large crowds and commanded high ticket prices.
Here was Harvey Sollberger not leading the Indiana University New Music Ensemble as he so often has in recent years, but a full-sized symphony orchestra, not concentrating on the more avant-garde music of our time but material of the 19th century. And musician that he is, he was doing a darn good job of it, not seeming at all a fish out of water. . . . The playing was not immaculate, but it was athletic. Sollberger has a clear sense of line and balance, something he brings from his handling of contemporary material. The interpretation (of Schumann's Symphony No. 3) did not lack dynamism..
And we owe a sizable debt to flutist-composer-teacher-conductor Harvey Sollberger, now finishing his term as Valentine Visiting Professor at Amherst College. He organized the recital and played in his own Elegy for Igor Stravinsky, Elaine Barkin's improvisational (continuous), and Michael Theodore's Tendrilled Breath for solo flute. Sollberger's conducting was extraordinary; he handled Mario Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 2 for instruments and electronic sounds – a classic and challenging work from the early days of electronic music – with consumate skill.
Harvey Sollberger is one of the finest new music conductors in America, and he brings a good deal more guts and warmth to his interpretations than Boulez does. Sollberger's recent association with SONOR bodes well for this ensemble's future, as does his willingness to program musical upstarts like John Adams.
Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements completed the program. Its often explosive nature is the sort of music Sollberger always did so well when he was at IU and headed the New Music Ensemble. It was done well Wednesday.
Under Sollberger's exacting guidance, the ferocious and harrowing performance by a CCP sextet was spellbinding enough to compensate for the piece's rather cliche-ridden first half.
It is difficult to seamlessly dovetail such an angular melody from one instrument to the next, requiring precise intonation and dynamic control of the highest order. Under the direction of conductor Harvey Sollberger, the ensembles admirably pulled off this tour de force. SONOR's rendition of Penthode was the first performance this writer has encountered, both live and on CD, that has accurately translated Carter's intentions.
As John Fonville expertly alternated on piccolo, alto and bass flute, and Harvey Sollberger led the eleven musicians with energetic determination, the performance (of David Felder's Inner Sky) employed computer-processed flute sounds.
The SIRIUS concert, conducted by Harvey Sollberger, was not a dog, instead a bright star, in an engaging series of performances fired by a dynamic reading of Schoenberg's great Pierrot Lunaire on February 21, at Hertz Hall on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.
HUMAN TOUCH WARMS MECHANIZED MUSIC. That these pieces (transcriptions of Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano numbers 5, 6, 12, 16 and 18) can be played by living musicians is a revelation, prompting a John Henry-like exultation over human capabilities. Sollberger conducted tautly but with feeling, and the 19 members of the ensemble, joining in various combinations, acquitted themselves splendidly. . . . It's been awhile since a new music program offered such thorough rewards.
The orchestra (the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus) has a new music director this year, Harvey Sollberger, who is best known as a flutist with sensational technique, but who is also a sure conductor. It fills an important need in the community, willing to undertake interesting challenges, unlike the newly-reconstituted, mainstream-bound San Diego Symphony.