Harvey Pittel: The Golden Age of the Saxophone

Few saxophone masters in the modern world can compare to the extraordinary talent of Harvey Pittel. Widely recognized as a true master of his craft, Pittel has earned critical acclaim that resonates throughout the United States. The New York Times’ Raymond Ericson described one of Pittel’s New York concerts as “An evening as stimulating musically as it was dazzling technically.” Meanwhile, Michael Steinberg of the Boston Globe praised Pittel as “A superb musician and instrumentalist, with an elegant sense of the phrase, vast technical resources, and a beautiful firmly-centered tone.” The San Francisco Chronicle highlighted Pittel’s exceptional ability to adapt and perform flawlessly across various musical styles, stating, “The thing about Pittel is that he plays so well and so stylishly… The control and variety of timbre and a varied chest of instruments allow him to adapt to whatever he plays.” These accolades are further solidified by Winthrop Sargeant of The New Yorker, who unequivocally hailed Pittel as “Clearly a master of his instrument.”

Born on June 22, 1943, Pittel’s musical journey extends beyond solo recitals. He has performed as an orchestral soloist with esteemed symphonies, including those of New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Louisville, Sacramento, Chautauqua, San Jose, and San Antonio, collaborating with renowned conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Michael Tilson Thomas, Neville Marriner, Seiji Ozawa, and more.

Pittel’s musical education began as a Music Education Major at the University of Southern California (USC), where he later pursued graduate studies with Fred Hemke at Northwestern University, earning his master’s degree. During the Vietnam War, Pittel dedicated himself to serving his country by joining The West Point Military Academy Band. During this time, he honed his skills under the tutelage of Joe Allard from the Juilliard School. Following his service, Pittel won the Concert Artists Guild Competition, making his Carnegie Hall debut in 1971. His extraordinary performance led to further representation by the same organization in 1973.

Pittel’s passion for teaching led him to accept the position of saxophone teacher at USC, where he expanded the studio from just four students to its full size. Concurrently, he taught at esteemed institutions such as Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State San Diego, and East Los Angeles Junior College, enriching the lives of countless aspiring musicians.

In 1978, Pittel relocated to New York City to focus on his thriving performance career, no longer having to navigate the frequent travel between coasts. The move proved fruitful, establishing Pittel as one of the most sought-after saxophonists globally, irrespective of genre. Today, alongside his busy performance schedule, Pittel holds the position of Professor of Saxophone at The University of Texas at Austin. He continues to mesmerize audiences worldwide as a soloist with professional orchestras, collegiate groups, and his ensembles, including the Harvey Pittel Duo, Trio, and Saxophone Quartet. Additionally, Pittel shares his expertise by judging competitions, conducting master classes and clinics, and delivering captivating speeches on music and performance.

Pittel’s contributions extend beyond the stage and studio. His talents have graced movie soundtracks, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and he has appeared on The Today Show and Live From Lincoln Center, earning him further recognition. Pittel has received numerous awards, including the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund grants and the National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist grant.

Selected Discography

  • Harvey Pittel – Contrasts (CRS Artists 0686)
  • Harvey Pittel with Jupiter Symphony – Live In New York (Crystal Records)
  • With RCC Wind Ensemble – Shape Shifter (Sea Breeze Classical Records)
  • With Univ. of Texas Saxophone Ensemble – Over The Rainbow and Bach Again (Naxos)
  • With Univ. of Texas Saxophone Ensemble – Tex Sax Next Generation (Mark Records 7119)
  • With Univ. of Texas Saxophone Ensemble – Tex Sax (Mark Records 2280)
  • Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet – It Might As Well Be Spring (HP Records 0400)
  • With Univ. of Texas Wind Ensemble – Husa/Maslanka Concertos (Mark Records 3932)
  • With Univ. of Texas Wind Ensemble – At Carnegie Hall (Mark Records 26970)
  • Harvey Pittel – La Linge, La Sonorite, A Tribute to Marcel Mule (Mark Records 5050)
  • With Louisville Symphony – Music of Paul Chihara (New World Records 815)
  • Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet – Live In Chicago (Mark Records 2106)
  • Harvey Pittel – Moving Along (Crystal 655)
  • Harvey Pittel – Bach and Noodles (Crystal 654)
  • With New York Philharmonic – Pictures At An Exhibition (CBS MK 35165)
  • With Ry Cooder – Jazz (Warner Brothers BSK 3197)
  • With Teresa Strata – Strata Sings Weill (Nonesuch 9 79131-1 F)
  • Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet – A Little Night Music (@1987)
  • Harvey Pittel with Louisville Symphony – Amram Ode to Lord Buckley (Louisville LS781)
  • Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet – Don’t You Remember The Time (Harojama 9743)
  • Harvey Pittel with London Sinfonietta – Rodby Concerto (Crystal S500)
  • Harvey Pittel with Westwood Wind Quintet – re issued on CD Sextour a vent (Crystal S 353)
  • Harvey Pittel Trio (Crystal S157)
  • Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet (Crystal S155)
  • Harvey Pittel Plays Music for Alto and Soprano Saxophones (Crystal S105)