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Organ Symphony No 5 in F minor, Op 42 No 1

first performed on 19 October 1879

The F minor Fifth Symphony (1879) and earlier G minor Sixth (1878) open the Op 42 quartet, dedicated to the pianist and piano-maker Auguste Wolff, a former business partner in Paris of Pleyel. Each majesterially refute Paul Henry Láng's damning 1941 view that Widor's 'symphonies for organ' are merely the 'contrapuntally belaboured products of a flat and scant musical imagination, the bastard nature of which is evident from the title alone'; that their 'creative force springs more from the technical than from the spiritual'. Whether or not Schweitzer was entirely correct to say that the Fifth 'deserts' the path of its predecessors, 'the lyric withdraws' (1951), is arguable. Certainly, along with No 6 (7 and 8 too), its slow counterfoiling content, the 'mouvement lent ou modéré à la Mendelssohn' element (François Sabatier, 1991), would seem to continue rather than abandon earlier traits. Progressiveness, though, there most certainly it—what Schweitzer calls that 'something else [striving] to take form'. Near opines that 'the ["signature work"] Fifth and ["astounding", "innovative"] Sixth Symphonies show the composer in full control of his craft, and thus provide a pivotal point to mark the transition to Widor's second creative period […] Still in his mid-thirties […] mature and successful [a man of "distinct musical personality"] working in large forms'.

'By the grace of its abundant inspiration […] the preferred symphony with the public' (Le Ménestrel, 1889), the epic Fifth similarly divides into five parts, with a reflective, suggestively terpsichorean inner core, comprising an impeccably gauged Allegro cantabile, a fantastical, whimsical A flat Andantino quasi Allegretto, and a C major Adagio. Contrasting the Sixth, however, variation procedure replaces sonata discipline. Self-evidently so in the opening Allegro vivace—a bronzed, lithe theme leading the way. And indirectly in the falling/rising step sequences of the closing maggiore Toccata—a fabled 'wedding' allegro of simple yet ingenious tonal patterning, thunderous climax, inexorable foot-work, and unremitting manual dexterity, the octuplet semiquavers of the right-hand calling for high-velocity staccato articulation. The first ascertainable public performance was given by Widor in Lyon on 16 December 1880, inaugurating Cavaillé-Coll's new organ in Saint François de Sales. From this fact, a handful of truncated Paris outings in 1879—at Saint François Xavier (27 February, first movement) and the Trocadéro—and the internal evidence of the score, Near reasons interestingly that the Fifth may have been composed 'with an instrument other than Saint-Sulpice in mind'—just as the Sixth had been intended for elsewhere (the 1878 Exposition Universelle). 'Several passages require an expressive Positif division—something that the Saint-Sulpice organ did not have, but which Saint François Xavier [built by Fermis & Persil], Saint François de Sales and the Trocadéro instruments included.'

from notes by Ateş Orga © 2019


Widor: Symphony No 5
Widor: The Complete Organ Works
SIGCD596Download only
Widor: The Organ Symphonies, Vol. 1
Studio Master: SIGCD292Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 9
CDA67228Archive Service


Movement 1: Allegro vivace
Track 1 on CDH55144 [10'01]
Track 6 on SIGCD292 [10'21] Download only
Track 1 on SIGCD596 CD3 [10'21] Download only
Movement 2: Allegro cantabile
Track 2 on CDH55144 [6'08]
Track 7 on SIGCD292 [8'03] Download only
Track 2 on SIGCD596 CD3 [8'03] Download only
Movement 3: Andantino quasi allegretto
Track 3 on CDH55144 [6'42]
Track 8 on SIGCD292 [8'24] Download only
Track 3 on SIGCD596 CD3 [8'24] Download only
Movement 4: Adagio
Track 4 on CDH55144 [5'52]
Track 9 on SIGCD292 [4'33] Download only
Track 4 on SIGCD596 CD3 [4'33] Download only
Movement 5: Toccata: Allegro
Track 22 on CDA67228 [6'07] Archive Service
Track 5 on CDH55144 [5'26]
Track 10 on SIGCD292 [6'11] Download only
Track 5 on SIGCD596 CD3 [6'11] Download only

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