Commentary and Reviews
Harvey Sollberger is still the incomparably superior flutist of the time.
Harvey Sollberger is one of the sovereign instrumentalists of the day, and the performance is impressively brilliant.
The flutist was Harvey Sollberger, that remarkable young man who can do everything but play full chords and probably doesn't do that because he hasn't set his mind to it.
The program was devoted to new flute music performed by the extraordinary Harvey Sollberger.
Mr. Guzzardo . . . . was replaced by Harvey Sollberger, composer and flutist, who stood in the spotlight and played the first of three programmed excerpts from his Riding the Wind for unaccompanied flute. Mr. Sollberger playing his flute was the most compelling theatrical manifestation of the evening. He managed to look composed and absorbed as he played, and the movements he made during the extended memorized performances, seemed to make sense in relation to the melodic contours and rhythmic patterns of the music. In short, Mr. Sollberger, as performer, has a kind of charisma that makes him something of a natural in theater terms.
Some of the most brilliant individual mechanical and musical virtuosity has been evident in the Columbia Group for Contemporary Music's performances at McMillin Theater of works by middle and younger-generation American composers. The unique phenomenon in this group is the flutist, Harvey Sollberger, who can maintain a continuous articulative thread while darting between registral extremes, producing an effortless succession at any speed of any combination of inflective changes.
Harvey Sollberger, the virtuoso flutist-composer, gave a masterly reading of the solo flute work, Density 21.5.
The Davidovsky piece had Harvey Sollberger, serenely playing his beautiful silver flute while two loudspeakers on either side emitted electronic sounds. At times he seemed like a shepherd who has wandered, unruffled in his Arcadian spirit, into a South American jungle. Later he seemed like this same shepherd unexpectedly showing-up in a nightclub.
Harvey Sollberger, as usual, was a marvel, sometimes getting out a vibrato that sang like a violin, sometimes ending a phrase in the kind of ear-piercing instrumental shriek one though belonged only to the Baroque high trumpet.
Harvey Sollberger was the excellent flutist [in the Davidovsky].
FLUTIST GIVES LIFT TO DULL SHOW: The only worthwhile segments of the evening were the substitutions offered by guests Luciano Berio, composer, and Harvey Sollberger, performer. . . Better received by the unsophisticated listeners was flutist Harvey Sollberger, who gave virtuoso performances of Berio's Sequenza I for solo flute and Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 1 for flute and electronic tape . . . Sollberger – who is also a respected composer, a faculty member at Columbia University, a specialist in contemporary performance practice and co-director of the New York-based Group for Contemporary Music – played his ten-minute portion of the program with authority and flair.
He opened the program with a noble and poetic reading of Mario Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 1 for flute and tape recorder. His playing of the brilliant flute part , which is framed by more brilliant electronic sounds, was dazzling.
First, a salute to flutist Harvey Sollberger, who, Monday night at Columbia University's McMillin Theater, displayed bravery and courage in playing difficult music with the greatest of ease.
Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 1, played brilliantly by Harvey Sollberger, is an attractive and elegant little number.
Wuorinen's concerto, played by the incomparable Harvey Sollberger and very well conducted by Melvin Strauss, is coarser stuff and cut to larger dimensions.
Most prominent among the long list of excellent performers were Harvey Sollberger, flute; Paul Jacobs, pianist; and Ralph Shapey, conductor.
A HOT FLUTIST ON A SNOWY NIGHT: Monday night was Harvey Sollberger night at Columbia University. The gifted young flutist stood fast amid the swirling snows and delivered himself of some of the finest contemporary-music flute playing heard here in a long while . . . He trilled, whistled, honked, rapped, rasped, tapped, whispered, shrieked, fluttered, trilled, arpeggioed, glissandoed, spun-out a fine line, bounced from bottom to top and tumbled back down again; now a bare whisper, now a whole barrage of flutes, spinning, cascading and tumbling sounds one on the other.
These innovations were ably expounded by flutist Harvey Sollberger, who undoubtedly possesses the best technique and the worst tone in the world . . .
Flutist Harvey Sollberger, cellist Robert Martin and pianist Charles Wuorinen performed splendidly.
His command of his instrument is impeccable.
With Sollberger, who is a virtuoso flutist as well as composer, playing the solo, the flute makes sounds beyond the normal range and dynamics of the instrument. He blasts and purrs and makes one think of factory whistles.
Otto Luening's Sonata for solo flute was gorgeous of tone in Harvey Sollberger's apt reading.
Mr. Sollberger is a marvellous technician able to create an amazing variety of colors and effects on his instrument – microtones, slides, hollow-sounding resonances produced simply by fingering sharply on the keys, and all manner of fluttering, buzzing sonorities.
Density 21.5 is a lovely piece, and being played, as it was, by Harvey Sollberger was definitely in its favor. His playing was dramatic and full of color.
A performance . . . so acute and immediate that it sometimes seemed the piece [Sollberger's Riding the Wind I] was being newly-composed right on the spot.
Sollberger and Wuorinen's performance [of Wolpe and Krenek] was an act of total sympathy and projection.
Harvey Sollberger was the very musical flutist here [Wuorinen Flute Concerto].
Harvey Sollberger played Otto Luening's seven-minute Suite for solo flute, a playful set of seven short, etudelike movements. Mr. Sollberger's performance made much of the pieces, which seemed rather traditional studies, and sounded old-hat.
Harvey Sollberger's flute was a pleasure in the second movement (of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks Concerto).
Cursive is a piece for flute and piano, played by Harvey Sollberger and Charles Wuorinen. Here the non-European subtleties of phrasing are even more marked than they are in Pien, thanks to the superb performance.
And the most successful work yesterday was the one which concluded the program – Synchronisms No. 1 by Mario Davidovsky. It featured Sollberger's live, in-the-flesh contest with a musical instrument – which he handled masterfully.
An electronic music program, inhuman by nature, needs some live body to keep it from being just a spooky communal happening. This function was admirably served by flutist Harvey Sollberger, whose primary role was as a most articulate and informative commentator on the music. His introductions were short but helpful and his obvious knowledge, devoid of stuffiness, communicated itself. . . And finally there was Davidovsky's Synchronisms No. 1 for tape and flute, Sollberger, here, in his other and equally effective role.
Mr. Rausch's Para Gerardo (Phonos II) offered some effective counterpoint between a burbling tape and a lively, angular flute part, played with genuine flair by Harvey Sollberger.
Richard Wilson's Music for Solo Flute was written for Sollberger, and it could scarcely be better played.
MEET THE VIRTUOSOS OF NEW MUSIC. Just how extensively composers have developed the performing capabilities of a familiar instrument is most vividly illustrated by the eleven works in Harvey Sollberger's two-disc compendium of 20th-Century Flute Music. . . The only complaint one might register about this indispensable enterprise is that Sollberger has modestly refused to play an example of his own music – a pity, since his talents as a composer more than equal his exceptional skills as a performer.
Virtuosity applied to up-to-the-minute material is the attraction of 20th Century Flute Music, a two-disc album by flutist Harvey Sollberger on Nonesuch. . . . A must for flute buffs with ears for the unconventional.
Harvey Sollberger is one of the outstanding flautists of his generation: his various recordings of works standard and new maintain an unusual fluency and expertise. However, in addition he is an acutely sensitive interpreter which then makes him an unusually adept exponent of the contemporary repertoire where he has been particularly active. So in a collection such as this you expect and receive something fairly special, reflecting also the considerable expansion in both flute technique and composition since the war.
One of those musicians who has the gift of making the flute sound like several other instruments is Harvey Sollberger, the principal soloist in this collection of contemporary chamber music (20th-Century Flute Music, Nonesuch). . . Six of the pieces are for solo flute, and if you want to hear how many different ways a flute can sound, Sollberger is your meat. His technique is a marvel. . . The composers ought to be enthralled with this album. Not even Beethoven was ever treated with more respect.
Harvey Sollberger has put together a marvelous collection of eleven compositions by various composers which, taken as a whole, represents the most complete compendium of the extended timbral and articulative resources of the flute issued to date. . . In addition to his mastery of the traditional way of playing the flute, Sollberger is capable of effectively employing all the newest “extended techniques,” including key clicks, bending tones, inhalation and exhalation sounds, and multiphonics. . . Harvey Sollberger has a big, gorgeous sound all his own, and he doesn't need the help of a “live” hall, real or electronically simulated.
Here is a two-disc set that belongs with the best of the best. . . . Harvey Sollberger has emerged as the leading flutist performing new music. His mastery of both traditional and avant-garde performance techniques is evident and formidable. . . . The two pieces by Pulitzer Prize-winner Wuorinen are also for solo flute and are beautifully read by Sollberger, for whom the pieces were composed.
The Romantic view is that new techniques of musical performance are forced upon interpretive musicians by the compulsions of composers; indeed, at one time, and not too long ago, it would have been regarded as crime against the Holy Ghost for an instrumentalist to find a new way to make a noise on his instrument and then hunt up a composer to find a way to make use of it. That, however, is what's going on now, and it may well be the most important new direction of today's new music. Nobody is better at it than flutist Harvey Sollberger, who can get more tweets and twitters, more breathless clicks, double-stops, and lugubrious bottleneck sounds out of a flute than anyone this side of Severino Gazzelloni, can play straight flute like the angels in Renaissance altar pieces, and validates it all with the consummate musicality that unifies his work. . . . However individual taste may dictate choices among all these compositions, the consensus has to be that the set as a whole is a major achievement – in composition, in performance, and in recording.
Harvey Sollberger is to the flute what Heinz Holliger is to the oboe: a musician able to elicit the most unusual tones from a most traditional instrument. You can marvel at his artistry on a new two-disc Nonesuch album, 20th Century Flute Music.
The variety and beauty of these compositions indicate that the flute is a popular and winsome solo instrument today. The fact that many composers of note have contributed outstanding works for flute indicates the feeling of composers for the desirability of this instrument. Soloist Harvey Sollberger is given some gargantuan runs, note intervals and other miscellaneous instrumental effects. These he does with little effort and much effectiveness. The result is inspiration for flutists and entertainment for the rest of us.
Flutist Harvey Sollberger's performances on Nonesuch's new two-record 20th Century flute set range from haunting to awesome to stunning, all done with passionately loving care.
Harvey Sollberger is a master of the new school of flute-playing that has revolutionized the musical expression that can be brought forth from that instrument.
Continuing their excellent series of contemporary music, Nonesuch has brought out this interesting and surprisingly-varied collection of contemporary music for flute, played with superlative artistry by Harvey Sollberger. . . . Only Density 21.5 is currently readily available elsewhere, and Sollberger's performance is clearly superior to competing versions.
Flute students should have both of these (Sollberger and Paula Robison recordings); everything a flute is capable of is to be heard on these discs.
An even more positive impression was made by Sollberger's Riding the Wind II, III and IV of 1974, a work for amplified solo flute which was performed with breathtaking virtuosity by the composer.
Density 21.5 (1936). The best account, by Sollberger (Nonesuch), is in a non-Varese collection. But Sollberger is the only flutist on records who really tries to project the dynamic levels given in the score and who differentiates sufficiently between the two alternating tempos.
The art of the avant-garde flute was brilliantly displayed Saturday night at Oberlin College by Harvey Sollberger of New York. In his New Directions recital, Sollberger produced a many-faceted tone that glittered and gleamed with myriad colors and inflections. A virtuoso performer, he completely controlled every aspect of breath, pitch, dynamics, vibrato and articulation. . . . Besides playing his flute beautifully in the usual manner, Sollberger bent tones, created multiphonics and whistled into his instrument, turning it into a remarkable source of pitchless whooshes, buzzes and clicks. Most of Sollberger's extended techniques were heard in his own composition, Riding the Wind II, III, IV. Playing an amplified flute, the composer-performer shaped a long expressive piece. . . . Filling-out the program were two charming fantasias by Georg Philipp Telemann. Sollberger played these 18th-century miniatures with the same subtlety and sensitivity he brought to the new music he apparently prefers.
Sollberger has a marvelous intensity as a performer, and he virtually danced his way through the intricate score.
The Luening suites are played with an ingratiating tone by Harvey Sollberger, an accomplished artist, who does them in such a way that he manages to sustain interest throughout. The other executants . . . . are all formidable, but it is Sollberger who is the real master of the instrument here. His tone is supple and full and his rhythmic sense propulsive without being frenetic.
Mr. Sollberger opened the program by playing Varese's Density 21.5, that marvelous groundbreaking essay for solo flute that now sounds so lucid in its design. The vitality of the piece came across fully in Mr. Sollberger's performance, thanks to the variety of tone color that he was able to achieve and the organic continuity that he brought to its unfolding.
AT THE GRAVE OF GEORGES BARRERE IN WOODSTOCK, NEW YORK ARTISTS' CEMETERY: Then it was time for the one selection the players had been permitted. Sollberger was given the honor; he said he had played the piece at the funeral of the composer, Edgard Varese, who had written it for Georges Barrere. It was called Density 21.5 – in honor of this extraordinary performer (Barrere) getting a new platinum flute. Sollberger played the solo piece. An extraordinary thing happened. About one-third of the way through the work the sound somehow became disembodied from the instrument and the technique that was creating it and carried through the cemetery on that hillside. The circle of persons lying on the lawn around Barrere's grave were still for several minutes after the performance concluded
TWO CELEBRATED FLUTISTS. Two of the world's most important flutists appeared in concert here in Boston at the same hour on Friday night. One, James Galway, is a celebrity, a superstar, as an advertisement in the program leaflet described him; he has done as much as anyone active today to consolidate and extend the popularity of his instrument. The other, Harvey Sollberger, is known chiefly in the new music world; he has done as much as anyone active today to assure the future of the flute by advancing the art of music.
Carter has doubtless heard many superb versions of his Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord, but this one (at the Paul Jacobs memorial concert) had just that extra measure of urgency, vibrance, and textural delicacy.
The harpsichord was put to more musically interesting use with Carter's Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord, whose sly, piquant pluckings and dartings through the more solid textures of the non-keyboard instruments was for many years a vehicle for Jacobs in a tongue-in-cheek but not unpoetic mood. Martin Goldray caught much of that mood, and flutist Harvey Sollberger, oboist Stephen Taylor and cellist Fred Sherry played with their expected flair and beauty.
A rhapsodic piece (Roger Reynolds' Transfigured Wind III) . . . . it received an authoritative and articulate reading from flute soloist Harvey Sollberger, the ensemble and conductor Jean-Charles Francois.
The performance (of Roger Reynolds' Transfigured Wind III) was a splendid one in which the CalArts New Music Ensemble was led by Jean-Charles Francois, with Harvey Sollberger the magnificent soloist.
Donald Martino's Quodlibets II, for solo flute, which is bracing and inventive, and was brilliantly played by Harvey Sollberger.
New York Philharmonic's Horizons Festival: Roger Reynolds' Transfigured Wind II was riveting from the start because of the flute playing (live as well as tape-”transfigured”) of Harvey Sollberger.
Fabulous was also the word for Harvey Sollberger's performance of Donald Martino's Quodlibets II, in which the complex writing for flute is also a notated emotional monologue for a great actor.
SOLLBERGER DAZZLES WITH HIS FLUTE. Sollberger combined his remarkable agility with the instrument and his zealous campaign in behalf of new music, offering adventurous fare written since 1960. In fact, four of the five items were created within the past two to three years. It proved a bracing feast, yeasty, spicy, fulfilling. . . . when Harvey Sollberger uses the flute it becomes echoes and whistles and steam pipes and organ pipes and birds and sirens and even, on occasion, an angel's voice. It becomes also a statement, a mission, a way of life. Sollberger becomes Pan the Piper, collecting advocates for the instrument and for the music he chooses to make that instrument give voice to. . . . . Whether all the notes were right, who can tell? Who cares? Such music brings virtuosity of another sort. But the man has spider fingers, the lip puckering of a champion, the lungs of a Wagnerian soprano. And he makes strange, strange music interesting.
Harvey Sollberger, the most important creative flutist of the period, had made significant strides in linking the Boehm flute to the Japanese shakuhachi (end-blown bamboo flute) by learning to make many of the sounds and musical gestures of the shakuhachi on the Western flute. He then transcended mere copying and used this sonic vocabulary in his compositions. Sollberger's pieces and his work with the Group for Contemporary Music in New York moved the flute forward in a time when the orchestra seemed the only route. Although less active as a performer today, Sollberger remains involved as an increasingly important composer.
No matter how unorthodox the requirements, Sollberger performed with masterly aplomb. He shaped textures and tempos as if the music were as easy as a C-major scale.
For nearly fifty years, Harvey Sollberger has been in the forefront of experimental music as a composer and flutist. Together with such contemporaries as Mario Davidovsky and Charles Wuorinen, Sollberger helped define and set the standard for modern music by exploring new avenues of expression and performance. . . . . As a flutist, Sollberger is no less dynamic and persuasive than he is as a composer. He plays with a conviction and self-assurance that comes from an innate affinity for the music of today. And not just any music, but music that burrows into one's consciousness and makes one think. That is certainly true of the four works Sollberger played Thursday. . . . And Sollberger's perceptive interpretation (of Morris Rosenzweig's What Follows is a Song from the Same Fragmented Masque) captured the character of the piece wonderfully.