George Cleve, former WSO music director, has died


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Perhaps George Wolfgang Cleve’s parents knew when they chose his middle name that their son would have a special love for Mozart when conducting symphony orchestras.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/08/2015 (2770 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Perhaps George Wolfgang Cleve’s parents knew when they chose his middle name that their son would have a special love for Mozart when conducting symphony orchestras.

Cleve died at his home in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra conductor and third music director, became known as a Mozart specialist early in his career and founded the now 41-year-old Midsummer Mozart Festival in San Francisco. He was 79.

Cleve was born in Vienna and moved to New York when he was a child.

He was appointed music director of the WSO for two seasons, from 1968 to 1970, and during his tenure he conducted the symphony’s inaugural season inside the Centennial Concert Hall.

James Manishen, now the WSO’s artistic operations associate but then a clarinet player with the symphony, said Saturday Cleve was “a tremendous talent, but he was a volatile person.

“He demanded a lot. He raised the bar, but he let people know when they didn’t meet his expectations,” Manishen said.

During Cleve’s tenure at the WSO, several world-renowned soloists guested with the orchestra, including Isaac Stern, John Williams and Richard Goode.

Manishen said Cleve, who went on to spend two decades as conductor of the San Jose Symphony, returned to Winnipeg to be a guest conductor with both the WSO and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra.

Cleve studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein, George Szell and Pierre Monteux.

Manishen said while Cleve became known for his conducting of Mozart pieces, he chafed at that designation.

“He would say he was not a Mozart specialist, but Mozart was his passion,” Manishen said.

During a 1968 interview with the Free Press, Cleve was asked if he found Winnipeg audiences different than crowds in other cities in which he had conducted.

“Audiences in Winnipeg are extremely dedicated,” he said. “You have to be to brave the sub-zero weather.

“When I did my first concert in the city, Winnipeg was suffering from temperatures near 40 below, yet we played to a capacity audience that night.”

Cleve spoke about how “music is basically an emotional experience.

“It’s your reaction as a human being to what you hear that makes music interesting and worthwhile.

“Good concerts tend to take people out of themselves. It’s an elevation from reality, not an escape from it, as so many people think.”

Cleve served as a guest conductor around the world, including at the New York Philharmonic, the Montreal Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra and the Vienna Symphony.

Cleve is survived by his wife, flutist Maria Tamburrino. He also is survived by a son and granddaughter.

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Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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