CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR (1844 - 1937)
Widor occupies an important position in the idiosyncratic tradition of French organ music, serving as organist at St Sulpice in Paris for 64 years. His organ pupils included Tournemire, Vierne, Albert Schweitzer and Marcel Dupré, and his composition pupils Honegger and Milhaud. As well as organ music, he wrote chamber, choral, vocal and orchestral works, including symphonies that also involve the organ.
Much of Widor’s organ music calls for the full resources of the great instruments made for major Paris churches by Cavaillé-Coll. Of particular interest are Widor’s ten organ symphonies, including the ninth, the Symphonie gothique. Some movements from the symphonies have won a special position in virtuoso repertoire, in particular the famous Toccata that ends Symphony No. 5 and the Marche pontificale of Symphony No. 1.
Three of Widor’s five symphonies include the organ in their instrumentation, the Third Symphony, Symphonie antique and Sinfonia sacra. His symphonic poem La Nuit de Walpurgis (‘Walpurgis Night’) is scored for chorus and orchestra, and the Ouverture espagnole suggests the interest in Spain that led Widor to establish a house in Madrid for French musicians. He left two piano concertos and a Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, with a Cello Concerto.
Widor left a quantity of meticulously crafted chamber music, including piano quintets, trios and violin sonatas.
Widor’s piano music consists largely of shorter pieces, many with descriptive titles.
While the name of Widor is not immediately associated with opera, he nevertheless had some success with his Les Pêcheurs de Saint-Jean (‘The Fishermen of St John’) at the Opéra-Comique in 1905.
Vocal and Choral Music
Widor contributed to sacred choral and vocal repertoire and to the repertoire of French secular song.