Wheeling Symphony Celebrates History with Masterworks II Concert

History is the centerpiece of the Wheeling Symphony’s Masterworks II concert that features Stravinsky’s exhilarating Firebird Suite, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’ birth and a 300-year-old Stradivarius.

The concert is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, at The Capitol Theatre.

“The Masterworks II program is based around historical concepts,” Andre Raphel, music director, said. “This program celebrates the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’ birth. As a tribute to this great Finnish composer, the orchestra plays Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7 for the first time in the orchestra’s history. This presentation is part of WSO Firsts: works during the 15-16 season, which the Wheeling Symphony is offering for the first time.”

Raphel also welcomes guest violinist Frank Almond back to Wheeling to play Mendelsson’s Violin Concerto on the Nov. 6 program.

“Frank Almond is an artist of keen musical intelligence and a beautiful sound. It has been a goal to bring him back to Wheeling for some years now. This seemed just the right season, as the instrument he plays, the Lipinski Stradivarius, has great historical significance and is now in its 300th year,” Raphel said.

Almond’s instrument was in the news last year when it was stolen in an armed robbery after a Jan. 27, 2014, concert in Milwaulkee, Wisc., where he is concertmaster. The Lipinski Stradivarius, valued somewhere between $5-$6 million, was recovered nine days later and continues to make headlines.

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Almond holds the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He returned to the MSO after holding positions as concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev and guest concertmaster of the London Philharmonic under Kurt Masur. He continues an active schedule of solo and chamber music performances in the U.S. and abroad, has been a member of the chamber group An die Music in New York City since 1997, and also founded and directs the Frankly Music Frankly Chamber Series based in Milwaukee.

At 17, he was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

“Also featured on this program is Stravinsky’s exciting and colorful Firebird Suite,” Raphel said. “The orchestra will perform the 1919 version of this incredible piece. I thought it would be interesting to pair this work with Sibelius’ 7th, written just a few years later in 1924.”

Opening the evening is Sibelius’ rarely played Karelia Overture, a piece with a strong folk influence, Raphel noted.

Concert talk with Lea Ridenour is set for 7 p.m. in the Capitol Ballroom.

Concert-goers may reserve tickets for dinner at 6 p.m., catered by the Vagabond Kitchen, also in the Ballroom. Dinner is $25 per person. The menu includes: an Artisan Salad, Cranberry Green Beans Almondine, Hasselback Potatoes and German Chicken Stew or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, with Swedish Apple Cake for dessert.

For tickets to the dinner or to the concert, call 304-232-6191.

The Masterworks II concert is sponsored by The Wheeling Symphony Auxiliary and Melanie & Ryan Murray.  Mr. Almond’s Guest Artist appearance is sponsored by Jean & Pete Holloway.