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Organ Symphony No 3 in E minor, Op 13 No 3

1872; revised in 1918

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


Widor: The Complete Organ Works
SIGCD596Download only
Widor: The Organ Symphonies, Vol. 3
Studio Master: SIGCD334Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Movement 1: Prélude: Moderato
Track 1 on SIGCD334 [8'58] Download only
Track 1 on SIGCD596 CD2 [8'58] Download only
Movement 2: Minuetto
Track 2 on SIGCD334 [5'20] Download only
Track 2 on SIGCD596 CD2 [5'20] Download only
Movement 3: Marcia
Track 3 on SIGCD334 [7'26] Download only
Track 3 on SIGCD596 CD2 [7'26] Download only
Movement 4: Adagio
Track 4 on SIGCD334 [3'50] Download only
Track 4 on SIGCD596 CD2 [3'50] Download only
Movement 5: Finale: Allegro molto
Track 5 on SIGCD334 [7'50] Download only
Track 5 on SIGCD596 CD2 [7'50] Download only

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