This is proving to be a highly impressive series, and one which you can return to with confidence, knowing that the performances will come up fresh on each hearing. The two symphonies on this disc may not be the most popular but repay careful listening. Joseph Nolan’s approach is studied without being over academic and he allows us to follow the structure of each symphony and to sense where Widor is leading us. Widor’s own comment you must give the organ time to breathe and speak seems to lie at the heart of the recording, for we are aware of the atmosphere in La Madeleine before and during the individual movements. There is a real sense of a live performance rather than the cut and paste of many earlier recordings.
The dynamic changes within the church are impressive. Listen to the over-powering impact of the Marcia in the third symphony, followed by the reflective Adagio. Nothing sentimental or insipid in the quieter registration, but a real sensitivity towards the quieter voicing. Equally pleasing are the gentle Andante cantabile of the fourth symphony before the skittering of the Scherzo and the blazing finale. If you have not got the rest of the series—do so!