Planned initially in six movements (a four-voice Fugue, Moderato assai, placed fifth, was omitted subsequently, reappearing around 1910 as one of the Deux pièces pour grand orgue
, together with the discarded original fourth movement of the Second Symphony), the Third opens with a 6/8 Prélude, dynamically contained. The cut of this—ties, suggestions of fluid cross-metre, chromatic progression, harmonic pacing, modulations—establishes a distinctively active quality, Moderato tempo and pedal-pointing notwithstanding. The B minor Minuetto, with a trio in G major and a routine tierce de picardie coda, breaks no formal boundaries but is interesting in its ‘orchestration’ and for how Widor uses tessitura, rhythm and simple variation techniques to re-angle appearances of the principal style ancient idea (from as early as bar 5). The Marcia in F sharp major unleashes hewn majesty but isn’t all about unrestrained volume. François Sabatier (1991) calls it a ‘rondo à refrain varié’—confirming a design that’s essentially ABACA, with the central reprise in (classically ‘wrong key’) A major (tonally anticipating the fourth movement). The first episode is modulatory; the second, more stabilised, moves from B flat to the home tonic. Both provide quieter, voice-led, counterfoils to the refrain—an imposing idea welding a distinctive anacrusis/downbeat dotted-rhythm with a pedal part democratically melodic and harmonic. Anchored by a slow-moving, pedal-pointed bass line, the 6/8 Adagio, a two-part canon-at-the-octave in A major (soprano-led at one bar’s distance), looks to the French pastorale tradition, vaguely resonant, albeit not modally, of a Mendelssohnian gondola song. Emphasing the strong compound/triple time/triplet character of the work as a whole, the ‘orchestrally’ exuberant, swirlingly over-toned, 12/8 Finale is a sonata allegro of flowing movement and fluid structure, displaying Widor’s evident delight in dramatising epic, German-descended, musical architecture. Both the principle subjects are urgent in different ways: the first through submediant inflections and short-upbeat/long-downbeat rhythms (which latter feature comes to pervade the music throughout); the second through subdominant minor referencing. The closing moderato/adagio, based on the second subject, draws the curtain down in E major—but with enough side-stepping tension to ensure no easy solace.
from notes by Ateş Orga © 2013