French influence leans more to the light side

If musical compositions are any indication of national character, then the French are a lighter hearted bunch than the Germans — and definitely less inclined towards romantic brooding.

Dale Wheeler

If musical compositions are any indication of national character, then the French are a lighter hearted bunch than the Germans — and definitely less inclined towards romantic brooding.

There’s a “witty sparkle” to compositions by Jacques Ibert, Gabriel Faure and Francis Poulenc, which will be performed at the A La Francaise concert that opens the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Concert Series, said pianist Dale Wheeler.

Unlike many compositions by Beethoven or Brahms, “there’s no dark, heavy introspective emotion,” in the French pieces, said Wheeler, a music instructor at Red Deer College.

The works were written just after the First World War, when Western Society was in a state of rebuilding ideals by stripping away Romanticism and coming up with something starker and more sparse.

The compositions, to be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15 at Studio A in the Red Deer College Arts Centre, are modern, but not a-tonal. Their rhythmic and chording patterns are not typical, however, so they keep players on their toes, said Wheeler, who performs Faure’s Piano Trio in D Minor, and Poulenc’s Sextet for the Piano and Five Wind Instruments.

There’s also a transparency to the works. “Every note sticks out,” he added, “so you can’t hide behind anything.”

The fresh Faure piece, written when the composer was 75, will make listeners understand why Faure is often referred to as a master of melody. Wheeler will be joined in performing this work by violinist Naomi Delafield and cellist Janet Kuschak.

For the Poulenc quintet with piano, Wheeler will be joined by flutist Lucie Jones, oboist Heather Haydu, clarinetist Ilana Dahl, bassoonist John Feldberg, and horn player Douglas Umana.

Chamber musicians will also perform Ibert’s Three Brief Pieces for Wind Quintet, which is again, an energetic work that’s “light, elegant, and witty,” said Wheeler, who has degrees in music performance as well as teaching from the University of Saskatchewan and a PhD from the University of Oklahoma.

Since the North Battleford, Sask.-native began instructing at the RDC in 2001, teaching students has largely taken precedence over performing because of the huge time commitment needed for rehearsals.

But Wheeler still makes a point of periodically playing for audiences at festivals and recitals because he enjoys it so much, and “it keeps me motivated.” Wheeler has previously performed as a soloist with the RDSO.

Tickets are $25 from Ticketmaster.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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