George Wolfgang Cleve, conductor
George Cleve was born in Vienna and at the age of four moved to New York with his family. He received his musical training at the High School of Music and Art, and the Mannes College of Music, where he studied viola with Paul Doktor, chamber music with William Kroll, and conducting with Carl Bamberger. In addition to studying piano and conducting with Seymour Lipkin, he pursued further conducting studies with Pierre Monteux, George Szell, Leonard Bernstein and Franco Ferrara.
George Cleve was Music Director of San Francisco's Midsummer Mozart Festival, which he founded in 1974. As a guest conductor, he appeared with most of the major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Montreal Symphony. He also worked at New York's Mostly Mozart Festival and at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony. Invited by choreographer Twyla Tharp in 2000 to conduct the world premiere of her The Beethoven Seventh at New York City Ballet, Mr. Cleve subsequently has become a frequent guest conductor there, conducting The Firebird, Concerto in 5 Movements, Symphony in C, Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Midsummer Night's Dream and other works in ensuing seasons. He was appointed Music Director Laureate of the San Jose Symphony in June, 1992, upon the conclusion of his twenty year tenure as Music Director of that orchestra, which through his leadership had become one of the finest in America.
In Europe the orchestras he conducted include the Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, English Chamber, Ulster, Swedish Radio, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish Radio, Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Zurich Tonhalle, Suisse Romande, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Vienna Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, Russian National Symphony, and the Mozarteum Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival, '93. Mr. Cleve also conducted the Singapore Symphony three times, and appeared on many podiums in South America, in New Zealand, and Australia. He was invited to conduct the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia in Mozart's 41st Symphony and Schumann's 4th Symphony, as part of a festival featuring the final symphonies of great composers.
George Cleve conducted many operas including Don Carlos, Carmen, La Boheme, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Dido and Aeneas, Cosi fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Abduction from the Seraglio, Bastien and Bastienne, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Madama Butterfly and Oedipus Rex with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, San Francisco Spring Opera, San Jose Opera and Long Beach Opera, as well as a concert version of Orpheus and Euridice with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1994 he conducted Don Giovanni with the Mannheim Opera.
Mr. Cleve made several Mozart recordings featuring symphonic works, overtures and concerti. He received Grammy nominations for his recordings with the Midsummer Mozart Orchestra on the Sonic Arts label. Mr. Cleve was awarded the rank of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of the Republic of France in recognition of his performances of French music. He has also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Santa Clara, the Gold Medal of Honor of the Republic of Austria, and the Silver Medal of the City of Vienna for his part in founding the Midsummer Mozart Festival, now in its 31st season.
George Cleve died on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 79.