Cleve conducts Mozart with style and intelligence


April 29, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

One of the hardest things to accept (and to understand) is why some talents never seem to achieve their just deserts.

George Cleve, who conducted the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last night in Meyerhoff Hall in an all-Mozart program, is a case in point.

Cleve, now in his middle 50s, emerged as one of America's most talented young conductors more than 25 years ago. One of the perplexing things about the excellent concert he gave last night is why so gifted a conductor remains so little known.

There was nothing routine about a frequently performed piece ++ such as the Overture to "Don Giovanni." Intelligently thought-out details and nuances marked every bar and phrase, and there was a sense ofdestination that made the piece hurtle to its inexorable conclusion.

Mozart's Symphony No. 34 in C Major (K. 338) was just as satisfying. This was a performance that reminded me of BSO music director David Zinman's way with the piece: It was stylish and refined -- attacks were clean -- and marked by brisk speeds. The finale, which raced to its conclusion at an exhilarating clip, was a tour de force.

This week the orchestra has been split into two groups -- one for subscription programs and the other for children's concerts.

Last night's reduced orchestra made it possible to program a piece such as the Divertimento No. 7 in D Major (K. 205), which is scored for a few strings plus horns and bassoon.

This is practically chamber music, and Cleve made the most of its intimacy and charm.

The wind playing may not always have been ideally focused, but the interplay between the violas and violins in the work's wonderful adagio was rich and sonorous.

The highlight of the evening, however, was a performance with pianist Seung-Un Ha of the Concerto in F Major (K. 459). I heard this young woman about nine years ago when she was only in her teens. She impressed me then and impressed me even more last night.

She plays Mozart wonderfully.

Her infallible fingers produce a beautiful sound that is perfectly inflected for working with an orchestra.

There was sensitivity in every phrase and a light touch that made the contrapuntal final movement sparkle with wit.

For some tastes -- though not mine -- the finale might have been a bit on the fast side. But the pianist's rock-steady sense of rhythm never faltered and she, Cleve and the orchestra made the piece frolic joyously.

The program will be repeated tonight, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:15.

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