Michael Collver - Reviews


“Giulio Caccini, a member of the Florentine Camerata, the circle of scholars credited with instigating the first operas, was represented on this program by four very beautiful songs. They were sung to ensemble accompaniment by an extraordinarily gifted musician by the name of Michael Collver. Collver, a counter-tenor, has a fantastic ear, an ear which allows him to zero in on every pitch with absolute accuracy, and that makes him extremely sensitive to tone coloration. His basic vocal quality is husky and masculine- not as soprano like as some counter-tenors - and he has both delicacy and power. As if this were not enough, he has a perfect understanding for this style and the technical ability to negotiate the elaborate fioritura that characterizes this music with exciting ease. The Caccini songs that Collver sung were Perfidissimo volto, Odi, Euterpe, Io che dal ciel cader and Amarilli mia bella. It should not go unmentioned that Collver also played the soprano recorder and the cornetto in the instrumental works. The cornetto, which he played very well, indeed, looks vaguely like an oboe with a slight curve to the right. It is, however, played with a small cup mouthpiece typical of brass instruments. It is treacherously difficult.”
Solo concert debut: San Diego Union — June 6th, 1976

“I was quite impressed with Mr. Collver's singing. His voice, in the countertenor range is pleasant in quality, well rounded, and somewhat more vibrant and natural sounding than that of a good many counter-tenors; it resembles the voice of James Bowman much more than that of Alfred Deller - who, although the dean of modern counter-tenors and an excellent musician, often tends to sound like Mickey Mouse. Mr. Collver is a good musician as well, and his manner of shaping phrases gave an interest and vitality to music which is sometimes performed in a rather four-square and mechanical manner, as though shadings of loudness and softness had not been invented until the time of Mozart. Even more winning was Mr. Collver's evident conviction that these pieces, with their passionate texts of jubilation and sorrow, ought to be performed with corresponding passion in the vocal delivery.... Mr. Collver belongs to a newer - and clearly much more authentic school of performance, which recognizes that the passion of the texts is reflected in the music, and that emotional expressiveness, far from interfering with the religiosity of these works, greatly enhances it.”
San Diego Weekly — August 7th, 1977

“Collver's ornamentation was carried out tastefully and with aplomb.”
San Antonio Sun — December 9th, 1979

“Collver, as a countertenor - a mixture of light high tenor with strong falsetto - has developed well the technique of dulcezza soarita (sweet and smooth flowing) in conjunction with the messa-di-voce style of tonal control. This was clearly demonstrated in his singing of :Odi Euterpe from Giulio Caccini's Le Nuove Musiche, 1610. As a cornetto player, Collver is phenomenal. One does not hear too many cornetto performers these days, and Collver has got to be one of the few virtuosi.”
San Francisco Independent Journal (October 25th, 1980)

“...not at all disappointing was the stupendous virtuosity displayed by the cornettist, Michael Collver.”
The Boston Globe — October 13th, 1984)

“The story of the passion continued with recitatives, more choruses and chorales, which were unusually fast in this performance, until the first solo which belongs to the alto. I can tell you that the musical score for this solo looks like the Sunday paper's classified section slathered with motor oil - extremely florid - and this accomplished singer articulated every roulade with clarity and accuracy. Also very emotionally portrayed was this performance by Michael Collver.”
Santa Cruz Westside Weekly — April 26th, 1984

“Michael Collver was superb in handling his demanding solo.”
The Valley Times — April 27th, 1984

“Perhaps the least expected dash of authenticity was the use of a male alto. Michael Collver rendered his role so handsomely that it would seem heresy to use a woman in for the part. His voice comfortably embraced the alto climate with a honey-coated resonance. How beautifully it mingled in the arias among the intimate timbres of the early instruments.”
Santa Cruz Sentinel — April 27th, 1984

“...consummate artistry impeccable intonation exquisite interaction, effortless agility, remarkable spontaneity -the works.”
The Boston Globe — January 16th, 1984

“The Cornetto Playing of Michael Collver was outstanding.”
The Boston Globe

“Collver who sane in the tenor and countertenor ranges, produced a light pure, limpid sound... sang with polish and vitality and rendered the Italian and Latin words clearly... and delivered the often rapid melismas with apparent ease.”
Los Angeles Times — July 12th, 1985

“Among the excellent singers, countertenor Michael Collver was outstanding.”
The Washington Post — December 8th, 1986

“The beauty and intelligence of Michael Collver’s countertenor were spellbinding - this gifted young artist is a real find.”
The Boston Globe — October 2st, 1986

“- possibly the finest and most interesting performance of the [Boston Early Music] festival
The Christian Science Monitor
— June 23rd, 1987

“Michael Collver was especially notable for his strong upper resister (and fine ear).”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — December 5th, 1988

“The performances were carefully prepared and full of conviction in the music. There was also a high degree of virtuosity to be found, particularly in the singing of Michael Collver,...Collver, a visitor from the United States, also proved his virtuosity on the ancient cornett which was made to sound surprisingly expressive...the silvered sounds that Collver managed to draw from this device made us wonder why the instrument fell into disuse.” The Montreal Gazette — Oct 7th, 1985.

“Michael Collver exhibited his prowess both as a fiery countertenor and as a demon performer on the cornetto and Fleugelhorn”
The Boston Globe
— December 22nd, 1989

“...infinitely subtle in inflection and disarmingly simple.” The Boston Globe — February 14th, 1989

Michael Collver: This Countertenor Cooks

The Boston Globe — July 18th, 1989

“Mais la révélation de la soirée est certenement Michael Collver, dont le programme ne dit pas qu’il est Boston et qu’il est artiste invité. M. Collver est une voix d’alto (les spécialistes és art vocal préciseront que se n’est pas la même chose qu-un haute-contre). La voix est d’une souplesse assez phénoménale, créant parfois l’illusion de deux voix, une voix de femme et une voix d’homme, se répondant - se qui, émenant de ce solide galliard pourvu d’une généreuse barbe, produit un effet assez curieux. Et avec cela, une présence qui éclipse tout autour de lui. Si j’étais compositeur, j’écrirais un rôle pour ce chanteur hors de l’ordinaire! M. Collver se double d’alieurs d’une instrumentist: il joue (et fort bien) du cornetto.”
La Presse, Montréal — Oct 6th, 1985

“Collver’s style and flair made him the most interesting performer in the first half...”
Review of Dido and Aneas — The Berkshire Eagle — July 29th, 1992.

“Michael Collver’s rich countertenor carried the evening’s vocal tour de force.” The Washington Post — May 11th, 1994

“Michael Collver’s voice might have reminded you of a young Nigel Rogers - but did Rogers ever sound as healthy and prismatic as this?”
The Boston Globe

“None was more affecting than the darkly moving, theatrically proportioned Complainte, which Countertenor Michael Collver sang with eloquent passion.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer — Jan. 29th, 1990

“Collver’s high wailing lament was as alien and exotic and anything you might hear from a performance of tradition oriental music.”
The Philadelphia Welcomat
— Feb 7th, 1990

“The most impressive performer in the group was countertenor Michael Collver. He maintained his high range, which he kept surprisingly well anchored without sounding forced ...Collver revealed sublime tone quality, also exhibiting excellent control on dynamics.”
The Davis Enterprise
— April 9th, 1991

“An exception to the rule was almost anything sung by countertenor Michael Collver. Instead of delivering each phrase in the same mood...Collver let the texts be his guide. In O rosa bella he lent the recitative-like portions a heart-wrenching, imploring quality; in Cacciando per gustar he captured the piece’s whimsy.”
The Washington Post
— April 18th, 1991

“Countertenor Michael Collver was a strong, even rollicking King Mark, his drinking song full of Bacchic growls (a welcome new sound for countertenors!)”
The Boston Phoenix — February 15th, 1991

“Michael Collver... proved vocally technically and musically remarkable”
The San Francisco Chronicle
— June 10th, 1994

“Michael Collver... played with brilliance and soul...”
The Boston Globe
— February 2nd, 1997

“... At [the program’s] center were some half-dozen sacred texts addressed to the Virgin Mary. The sixth, Monteverdi’s Lamento della Madonna, was an extended first person narrative presumably uttered by that lady herself. In addition to the inherent pitfalls of this last, imagine the effect of its being sung by a man, in this case the impressively equipped and fiercely histrionic Michael Collver. Not for nothing was he identified in the program as “voice,” for what Collver does eludes any easily describable category. Strong elements of countertenor or male alto are in it, but that’s only a starting point. Some of it is slowly and creamily poured; some of it is squeezed out, under audible pressure, as from the narrowest of apertures. Add to this vibrato (or none at all), a wonderful facility with [gorgia], keyboard-like repeated notes, and deliriously quick moving runs - the list goes on - and you have assembled the ingredients of a highly conscious performer. If it were as simple as that, however, the display of vocal wares would have begun to pall early on. As it was, Collver summoned a startlingly cantorial manner in Monteverdi’s Salve O Regina. The quick melisma’s of Barbara Strozzi’s Nascente Maria had you thinking of a stone skipping across water, while in Tarquinio Merula’s potently gloomy Sonata Secunda - here playing the cornetto - the rapid fire syncopations could have taken one’s breath (certainly not his) away.”
The Boston Globe — July 22nd, 1997

“Collver sang a solo line against drones held by the other singers. He is an extroverted countertenor with the timbre of a soprano saxophone. And there is only one angel I could think of who might have supplied Collver with his spellbinding tone, his rhapsodic flights of fancy, his heroic soprano sound and his intricate coloratura ornamentation - all in the service of shinning ecstatic melody. And that is John Coltrane, the great Jazz Player.”
Los Angeles Times — Dec 9th, 1997

In an age of specialists, it is rare to find such a performer as Michael Collver who is master of both the vocal and instrumental arts Showcased with an ensemble of illustrious baroque players, Collver filled St. Philip's Church in Occidental with his brilliant tenor voice and trumpet-like cornetto last Saturday. This twilight concert was the second in a series being presented by the Redwoods Festival. The program was about generations, in particular, generations of the Bach family. But straying from the norm, this was not another collection of works by the sons of Johann Sebastian. Instead, the ensemble focused on works by seventeenth-century Bach family elders and their contemporaries. It was a welcome step backward in time, allowing the listener to view the most famous Bach as child and nephew rather than Kapellmeister and father. Cornettist-countertenor Collver and violinist-director Ryan Brown shared the solo spotlight. The subtle, almost relaxed virtuosity of both allowed for a careful weaving of instrumental lines and cleanly executed improvisatory flourishes. Italianate instrumental works by Weckmann and Löwe were tossed off with gentle assurance. Their playing was strikingly compatible, ...   Worthy of mention are two pieces by Johann Christoph Bach: The Chaconne with overlaying text ("Meine Freundin ist mein"), and Lamento ("Ach dass ich Wassers genug hätte"). The text of "Meine Freundin" spoke anxiously of love sickness and drew energy from dramatic statements made by voice and violin. Accompanying forces of three violas and continuo provided a backdrop as sonorous as a church organ. Elegantly led by Katherine Kyme, the violas reacted much like a Greek chorus, responding with broad gestures to Collver's vocal interjections. The Lamento was laden with a Wagneresque richness; the kind of writing that thrills the soul and reminds us that music exists because certain things cannot be described in words. In fact, the beauty of the piece was such that the performers chose to delete a work they had programmed to follow it.
Cynthia Albers — San Francisco Classical Voice — August 1999

Michael Collvers's Voice Makes for a SoHip Evening Indeed
“SoHIP's summer concert series, all seven weeks of it, is by now a fixture of the local musical landscape, a presence that would surely be missed if for any reason it disappeared. Not, mind you, that there's any strong likelihood of that happening. The formula is simple: SoHIP puts on concerts, and people come. It's a lucky organization that has an acronym that really works. SoHIP, as its audiences know, stands for the Society for Historically Informed Performances (sic). And that's exactly the business that Michael Collver was tending to in his one-man recital Thursday night at Emmanuel Church. But how do you describe who Collver is and what he does? He's more likely to be billed as "voice" of late, rather than as countertenor, a specialty that has gone so mainstream (to the extent of best-selling CD's, even) that the label per se does give you a good idea of what to expect. The point is that -- though Collver assuredly can to what countertenors or male altos do, the most famous virtuosi among them included -- with him it's practically another thing altogether. The sheer vocal control is astounding. In a single phrase -- or even a single note --the sound will shift effortlessly from one placement to another in a manner that seems to defy the laws of anatomy. He can muster ample stores of breath (where does he hide them?) to send forth an eerily keening, tart, vibrato-less sound that's more woodwind -- or even organ stop -- than any of the conventional vocal timbres that critics struggle to find names for. His program was billed "Through a Distant Mirror: A Medieval songbook of love and lament (1000-1420 AD)." The "name" composers were Francesco Landini, Johannes Ciconia, and Guillaume de Machaut. A form of early-music electronics -- tiny keyboard, some adroit sampling hocus-pocus, loudspeakers -- provided a "virtual" organetto, a "virtual" positive organ, and, when needed, the drone, or ground, for the singer's expressionist audacities to play themselves out against. And audacities they certainly are -- risk-taking, pushing-the-envelope, mercurial, high-affect, mercurial ones. Was it self-indulgent? Well, the jury is out on that one, possibly forever. There is no one quite like Michael Collver.”
The Boston Globe — July 19th, 2001

“The playing was otherwise distinguished, and Michael Collver had a particularly graceful way of tracing Gabrieli's soaring cornett lines, written for the reigning virtuosos of the day.”
The New York Times — October 3rd 2005

“Michael Collver was a haunting wonder, his countertenor like an earthier Alfred Deller.”
The Boston Globe — December, 20th 2005



“Michael Collver sings with a smooth weightless tone.”
Review of CD Ars Magis Subtiliter in Fanfare — September 1989

“Collver sings the next song, Pictagoras, Jubol et Orpheus, in a most unusual kind of haute-contre relaxed and almost wispy in places but with a neatly controlled flexibility... Highly attractive, not least for being unusual and having a gentle quality that seems well conceived for this repertory”
Review of CD Ars Magis Subtiliter in Gramophone — 1989

“Yet the most striking track of all is undoubtedly the complaint, Tels rit, urgently delivered with a minimum of fuss by Michael Collver.”
Review of CD Remede de Fortune in Gramophone — October 1994

“...These performances of Ciconia's works are revelatory; the singing of countertenor Michael Collver, in particular, is excellent. Minimal instrumental accompaniment and a very "live" acoustic combine to create the perfect ambience. An exceptional program.”
Review of CD Homage to Johannes Ciconia on-line in All Music Guide

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