The Choral placed second alludes loosely to the slow movement double theme/variation prototype of Haydn 103 and, more particularly (given the added temporal dimension), Beethoven 9. An audibly clear, finely wrought, structure unfolds. First subject, ABA, A major (minor)/C sharp minor/A major, Andante 4/4, forte/piano/forte. Second subject, AB, A minor-E minor, Andantino 6/8, pianissimo. First subject, curtailed reprise, C major (minor), Tempo I 4/4. First variation/development, second subject, C minor-G minor, rising to a sustained soprano cantus firmus on the first subject, F sharp minor, Tempo II 6/8. Second variation/ development, first subject, A major, baroque division style, Tempo I 4/4. Coda, contrasting syncopated (right hand) and augmented (right foot) versions of the first subject, Poco più vivo 4/4.
With its distinctively Neapolitan opening, the third movement is a sicilienne à la Mendelssohn in F sharp minor/major, Andante-Allegretto—bringing a touch of grace and light staccato to the proceedings. The central animato is in B minor. An intermezzo-toccata- étude in A minor à la Schumann follows. The most pianistically laid-out of any movement in Widor’s symphonies, its model, Near ventures, may lie in Liszt’s Vision, ‘the funeral of the first Napoleon advancing with solemn and imperial pomp’ (Busoni), the sixth of his Études d’exécution transcendante. ‘The main theme, in long notes [a minore form of the Choral cantus], rides over an accompaniment altogether extraordinary for the organ, a flurry of arpeggiated figuration […] that rises and falls like great waves.’ The second edition (1900-01) revised, readdressed and shortened the original text by 44 bars. Distantly recalling the Orphean pages of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, the lento fifth movement, in C sharp minor/major, journeys a high spiritual realm in contrasting paragraphs of proclamation and supplication.
Near identifies the first theme of the Choral as the Seventh’s Urmotif. Evidently related in contour and scale reference, though in neither key, harmony, metre nor bass-line, to the andantino of Franck’s Pastorale Op 19 dedicated to Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1860-62), it variously informs each movement of the work, establishing a quiet, often subliminal, cyclic unity across the whole—at times near-Sibelian in anticipation.
from notes by Ates Orga © 2014
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