CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra Op. 42 (bis); Sinfonia Sacra for organ and orchestra Op. 81 – Christian Schmitt/ Bamberger Symphony/ Stefan Solyom – CPO multichannel SACD 777 443-2, 59:28 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
I had no idea that Widor had arranged three movements from his various solo organ symphonies into a work for organ and orchestra, which he never even published during his lifetime. The first and third of his Op. 42 come from his Symphony No. 6, my favorite Widor organ symphony, and the middle Andante movement from his Symphony No. 2. This is a heroic-sounding and spectacular Romantic work which would be a big hit at any live symphony performance as long as the hall has a good pipe organ in it. There’s lots of brass in the initial choral-based movement, and the Allegro finale is dazzling and impressive. The orchestration of the work came about because King Edward VII of England asked Widor if he would create such a showoff work especially for the world’s largest pipe organ which had recently been installed in Royal Albert Hall and was known as the “Voice of Jupiter.” The organ in the Bamberg Philharmonic Hall is more of a German instrument than French, but the overall effect is quite enjoyable.
The second organ and orchestra work is more somber, and was written after Widor had both performed more in Germany and become more influenced by German music. In fact his friend Albert Schweizter has made him aware of the connection between text and music in Bach’s works, and the Sinfonia Sacra grew out of this. It uses a Lutheran chorale theme which Bach also used in one of his cantatas: “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland.” The work is in five short movements and Widor’s style here seems to have taken a strong Wagnerian bent vs. the earlier symphony. But this is definitely not a showoff piece, and the organ is more a part of the orchestra rather than being in the spotlight as with the Op. 42 work.
— John Sunier
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