CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Symphony No. 3 for organ & orch.; Symphony VII for organ solo – Christian Schmitt, organ/ Bamberg Sym./ Stefan Solyom – CPO

by | Aug 21, 2012 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Symphony No. 3 Op. 69 for organ & orch.; Symphony VII for organ solo Op. 42 No. 3 – Christian Schmitt, organ/ Bamberger Symphony/ Stefan Solyom – CPO multichannel SACD 777 678-2, 73:04 [Distr. by Naxos] (8/28/12) ****:
Widor may be seen as the epitome of the French organ school of the late 19th century and early turn to the 20th. His ten solo pipe organ symphonies are regarded as among the most important works of the virtuosic French school. He also wrote three works for organ and orchestra, plus one which added a chorus to that combination. He was also organist at St. Sulpice in Paris for 64 years.
In his Op. 69 the composer wanted to created a “grand concerto for organ,” and he did. It was his first work for the combination, and he greatly admired the Organ Symphony of Saint-Saens,  but he made the organ a much more important solo voice in his work than Saint-Saens—who had understood the organ more as an orchestral color. The half-hour-long work uses eight sound groups, and makes use of the percussion section. There is considerable alternation between organ and orchestra.
In his 7th and 8th solo organ symphonies Widor elevated the form to new heights. With its six complex movement, the Seventh is way beyond the composer’s earlier six organ symphonies. Widor was a leader in the French veneration of Wagner, as well as a friend of that composer (as well as of Albert Schweitzer). However, he kept French traditions in composing. Schweitzer called the work “boldly orchestral,” and the cyclical character (borrowed from Wagner’s leitmotivs) is new to Widor’s organ symphonies. The six movement draw the work out to 43 minutes length.
The organ/orchestra work was recorded in the Bamberg Concert Hall and the balance between organ and orchestra is more pleasing in hi-res surround than most two-channel recordings of similar fare. The solo organ work used the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Abteikirche St. Ouen in Rouen, France.
—John Sunier

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