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DROP IN ON MOZART : In Spirit of Composer's Time, Pacific Symphony Inserts Concerto Into Serenade

September 02, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers classical music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Music in Mozart's time was not exactly a stone tablet handed down from Mt. Sinai. Composers took liberties with their own music and the music of others in ways that raise a modern eyebrow or two.

In that spirit, Pacific Symphony guest conductor George Cleve will insert Mozart's Concerto No. 23 into the middle of the "Posthorn Serenade" in the Mozart program he will conduct Saturday at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

"The idea is not original with me," Cleve insisted in a recent phone interview from his home in Berkeley. "That's actually a procedure done in Mozart's time. On frequent occasions, Mozart used the big serenades and the big symphonies as a framework for a concerto."

The practice, he added, makes quite of bit of sense.

"The 'Posthorn Serenade' is one of these long occasional pieces. This particular serenade can work just as well in sequence, but with some of the others, it really benefits having a bit of respite. You come back pretty refreshed for the rest of it.

"I've done this particular kind of program before, also with another serenade, K. 203, and I find that it works very well."

Soloist in the concerto will be Korean-American pianist Seung-Un Ha, 26, who stepped in on short notice for Horatio Gutierrez two weeks ago in the same work with Cleve at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York.

Ha and Cleve have also worked together in San Francisco, where Cleve founded the Midsummer Mozart Festival in 1974.

Cleve studied at the Mannes School of Music in New York and later served as an assistant to Pierre Monteux and George Szell. The Vienna-born maestro made his conducting debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1965 and, two years later, became music director of the San Jose Symphony, a post he held for 20 years.

He has also guest-conducted the Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland and Pittsburgh orchestras as well as the New York Philharmonic. This will be Cleve's first stint with the Pacific Symphony.

"I never encountered (the Pacific) live," he said. "But I certainly have heard recordings. I think it should be a fun evening."

Despite evoking the freer traditions of Mozart's day, Cleve is no unreserved admirer of the historical practice movement.

"It has its place and has been beneficial in many respects," he said. "But it's not the only way of doing music. Playing on period instruments doesn't guarantee a great performance any more than playing on modern instruments guarantees an inferior one."

But he will adhere to one more tradition by opening and closing the program with Mozart's two Marches in D, K. 335.

"Those particular marches are believed to have been used in conjunction with the first performances (of the 'Posthorn'), to bring the audience in, as well as escorting the audience out," the conductor said. "Of course, I'm not demanding the audience leave during the last march--in one of those walking ovations you get in New York so often."

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