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Charles-marie Widor: Symphony No. 8

Widor / Ledroit,Frederic
Release Date: 04/30/2013 
Label:  Skarbo   Catalog #: 1102   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Frederic Ledroit
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WIDOR Organ Symphony No. 8; Trois Nouvelles Pièces, Op. 87; Scherzo ( Allegro ) Frédéric Ledroit (org) SKARBO 1102 (72:20)

The Eighth of Charles Marie Widor’s 10 organ symphonies is not only the longest of them, spanning some 55 minutes; it is also the most daunting in terms of technical and interpretive difficulties. Originally laid Read more out in seven movements—later reduced to six by the excision after the initial 1887 publication of the original “Prélude ( Adagio )” fourth movement—the work shuns following the typical four-movement pattern of the contemporary orchestral symphony. Instead, it reverts back to the original root meaning of “sym-phonia,” “sounding together,” to exploit the manifold capacities of the organ for colorful sonic kaleidoscopes through various combinations of stops and registrations, employed in various formal structures freely modified by the composer. The first and last (seventh) movements are bi-thematic adaptations of the sonata form; the second and third are free-flowing ariosos; the fourth and fifth movements utilize a variations structure, while the sixth movement employs a fugue.

Given the formidable demands required both to perform and to listen to this work, it is not surprising that it also has seen by far the fewest recordings. At present I can locate only seven versions in print, of which ArkivMusic lists only three. Two of those belong to integral sets of the symphonies, played respectively by Pierre Pincemaille on Cavaille-Coll organs in 10 different French churches (a five-CD set recorded in 1999-2000 by the Solstice label) and by Ben van Oosten on four different Cavaille-Coll organs in a seven-CD series of the complete organ works of Widor, recorded by MDG between 1991 and 1998. Of these seven versions, only three—those by Ledroit, van Oosten, and by Odile Pierre on a 1987 Motette recording—include the composer’s original fourth movement.

The Trois Nouvelles Pièces date from 1934, when Widor was 90 years old. Titled “Classique d’hier,” “Mystique,” and “Classique d’aujourd’hui,” they are his final organ works. Each one is dedicated to a different prominent American organist; they are primarily contemplative and subdued in character. By contrast, the brief Scherzo that concludes this disc is an early work dating from 1872; it has the same rousing, exuberant character of the famous Toccata from the Fifth Symphony, though it does not require the same degree of virtuosity.

To my regret, I was not able to access any other recordings on this work against which to compare this version; I can say that I found the realizations of the symphony and other works all highly effective. Ledroit has a keen sense of the appropriate variety of tonal colors to draw from the instrument; he also is not afraid to play softly a good deal of the time, or to take tempos slightly on the slower side in order to allow time for the music to breathe and for the listener to absorb its manifold complexities. The recording engineer has taken care to get a good perspective of the organ that does not allow detail to be swallowed up by resonance or reverberation in the church’s spacious interior. Previous discs in this series also were praised by Colin Fleming in 30:6 and Jerry Dubins in 33:6. Former longtime Fanfare organ expert Haig Mardirosian had high praise for the van Oosten series; if this one also encompasses the complete organ works, as it appears it might, I suspect it will be a worthy competitor to that earlier survey. In addition, Joseph Nolan is presently recording another complete cycle of the symphonies on Cavaille-Coll organs for the Signum label; so far two volumes of that series have been released. This cycle began in 2005 and has been slow to reach completion; at this time it still lacks symphonies 1, 3, and 10. But if you are willing to assume that Ledroit will make it to the finish line for the entire series, or if you are interested in this particular symphony on its own, this disc is recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Nouvelles Pièces (3) for Organ, Op. 87 by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Frederic Ledroit (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1934 
Venue:  Temple St. Etienne, Mulhouse, France 
Length: 14 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Symphony for Organ no 8 in B flat major, Op. 42 no 4 by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Frederic Ledroit (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887/1890; France 
Venue:  Temple St. Etienne, Mulhouse, France 
Length: 48 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Scherzo for Organ in E major "La Chasse" by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Frederic Ledroit (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Venue:  Temple St. Etienne, Mulhouse, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 42 Secs. 

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