Wheeling is in the midst of a bit of Shakespeare Mania right now. The First Folio visit has events on tap nearly every night for a month. You might have thought that the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s French Festival this week is a completely unrelated diversion, but you’d be wrong.
The festival kicks off this evening at 7 p.m. at Towngate Theatre, with Leland Wheeler reading the love letters of French composer Hector Berlioz, the musical genius behind Symphonie Fantastique, the piece that will be the culmination of the week’s events. It was written by Berlioz during a romantic infatuation with actress Harriet Smithson, whom he had first laid eyes on while she played the part of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Waddington Room at the Mansion museum will host a panel discussion of The Influence of Visual Art in Composing Music with Music Director Andre Raphel, composer Kenneth Fuchs and pianist Jeffrey Biegel. Fuchs will discuss his most recent work, Spiritualist, which was inspired by the works of Helen Frankenthaler and which will be performed on Friday night by Mr. Biegel. The First Folio exhibit, which is also at the Mansion, closes at 5:00. So maybe plan to go early and see it, then walk the trails to either the Ihlenfeld Room or the Glassworks Grille for dinner before returning for the panel discussion and the reception afterward.
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Thursday noon brings us to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, where music director and organist Robert Troeger will perform an organ recital of French music. Works include selections from Cesar Franck, Louis Couperin, Maurice Durufle, Camille Saint-Saens, Jehan Alain and Jean Guillou. Mr. Troeger will close the program with a fantasy on music from the 2001 film Amelie by composer Yann Tiersen.
The grand finale on Friday is the WSO’s concert at the Capitol Theatre at 8 p.m. The Symphony has been generous enough to offer a limited number of free tickets to Weelunk readers, available at this page or by clicking the ad at the top of the any lifestyles article. The concert features the French works of Emmanuel Chabrier: Joyeuse Marche (a WSO 1st performance), Gabriel Faure: Pelleas et Melisande and of course, Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique.
WSO executive director, Bruce Wheeler says, “The exciting part of this concert is the size of the orchestra. Berlioz had a totally original approach to music and a unique sense of sound. This concert requires 76 musicians along with 10 timpani, two sets of chimes, 2 harps and a grand piano. To create the kind of sound required, we’re going to have extend the Capitol Theatre stage over the orchestra pit, out into the audience.”