Wheeling Symphony Orchestra to Present ‘Famous Fifths’ at Masterworks III Concert

Two monumental symphonies and four of the most famous notes in musical history will be featured when the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra presents its Masterworks III concert, “Famous Fifths,” at the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling Friday, March 20.

The concert, set for 8 p.m., will be under the baton of Maestro Andre Raphel.

“This all-orchestral program focuses on the music of Beethoven and Sibelius,” Raphel said. “These two composers shared a similar thought process when composing based on small motivic elements. They would both write heroic music with an enduring quality. It is that heroic sound and gift for developing small cells that make their works so fascinating to play alongside each other.

“It is indeed unique to feature two symphonies on a single concert. This program, ‘Famous Fifths,’ features the most famous piece of classical music ever written – Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 5,'” Raphel said. “I thought it might be interesting to program this piece alongside Sibelius’ ‘Symphony No. 5’ since both were such monumental works.

“Sibelius’ ‘Fifth Symphony’ is unique because of its form – only three movements instead of four. It was a work that Sibelius toiled over with great concern, and thus it was revised several times. Its sweeping gestures not only relay a certain open feeling of nature, but also focus the listener on Sibelius as a revolutionary with a unique sense of rhythmic momentum,” he said.

“The opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth, as he once said, exemplifies ‘fate knocking at the door.’ Those famous four notes at the start of the first movement really provide the basis for the entire piece. It’s a symphony that goes from tragedy to triumph; a pattern that would be used by countless other composers in their symphonies. The piece in many ways represents Beethoven’s own mighty struggle with destiny, as he sought to overcome his deafness through music,” Raphel said.

Along with the “Famous Fifths,” the program features Beethoven’s “Overture to Egmont” and Sibelius’ “Lemminkainen’s Return.”

“The concert starts heroically with Beethoven’s ‘Overture to Egmont.’ Based on the play by Goethe, the drama centers around an honest man’s defiance of tyranny. By symbolizing rebellion and victory in this overture, Beethoven encapsulates the essence of his Fifth Symphony,” Raphel said.

“If there’s one piece by Sibelius that should be heard more, it’s ‘Lemminkainen’s Return,'” Raphel said. “It’s a virtuoso piece, and so, on this all-orchestral program seemed a perfect feature for the orchestra. Based on Finnish folklore, it’s fast and incredibly exciting.”

A pre-concert dinner, catered by Ye Olde Alpha, begins at 6 p.m.. The menu – influenced by the two composers’ geographic background – includes bourbon pork shanks; chicken schnitzel with lemon butter; new potatoes with fresh dill; roasted green beens with toasted almonds and red pepper; Rosolli salad of beet, apple, carrot, potato and onion with vinaigrette; mixed green salad; bread, sesame chips and honey butter; and German chocolate cake. The Wheeling Symphony Youth Orchestra String Quartet will perform during dinner.

Pre-paid dinner reservations are required by Wednesday, March 18, and can be made by calling 304-232-6191.

Wheeling Symphony Society board member Lea Ridenhour will present present Concert Talk at 7 p.m. in the Capitol ballroom. She and Raphel will discuss the evening’s program.

Masterworks III is sponsored by David and Dixie Ellwood, Carol and George Couch, Jay Frey and Michael Hires, and Ridenhour.

For tickets, call 304-232-6191 or visit online at www.wheelingsymphony. com.