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Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844 - 1937)
Symphonie en Sol mineur Op.42 (1882)
Joseph JONGEN (1873 - 1953)
Alleluja Op.112 (1940)
Hymne Op.78 (1924)
Horatio PARKER (1863 - 1919)
Concerto in E flat minor Op.55 (1902)
Franz Hauk (organ)
Ingolstadt Philharmonic/Alfredo Ibarra
Recorded: Ingolstadt Munster, August 1998
GUILD MUSIC GMCD 7182 [62:48]

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Charles-Marie Widor has written a huge amount of organ music, the crown of it being his ten organ symphonies, a genre he really created. His Symphonie en Sol mineur Op. 42 for organ and orchestra, a commission of the Philharmonic Society to mark the 10th anniversary of the Willis organ in the Royal Albert Hall, was completed in 1882. It was first performed in August of that year. Though the original commission was for an organ concerto, Widor decided - for whatever reason - not to compose a new work but rather to rework some existing material. Actually the outer movements are drawn from his Organ Symphony No. 6 Op. 42/2 on which he was then working. The slow movement derives from his Organ Symphony No. 2 Op.13/2 composed ten years earlier. However, the symphony as such is a quite impressive piece of music in its own right, even though a slight stylistic dichotomy may show because of the work's origins. The central movement is more traditional than the outer ones which are fine examples of Widor's maturity, but the whole work is coherent enough and eschews any suspicion of eclecticism. This is a major work which repays repeated hearings. The symphony was performed in Philadelphia in March 1919, the conductor then was Stokowski who apparently made some changes to Widor's orchestration though we are not told to what extent he "tinkered" with it. The present recording incorporates Stokowski's "orchestration" and Franz Hauk's cadenzas.

Joseph Jongen composed only three works for organ and orchestra of which the Symphonie Concertante Op. 81 of 1926 is his unquestionable masterpiece. Hymne Op. 78 for organ and string orchestra was composed in 1924 and is a peaceful meditation unfolding effortlessly whereas the more extrovert Alleluja Op.112, written in 1940 to mark the inauguration of the new organ in the I.N.R. (Belgian Radio)'s concert hall, is a short, modally inflected work, quite characteristic of Jongen in his outdoor mood.

The American composer Horatio Parker wrote many choral and organ music, but may be best remembered as Charles Ives' teacher. Apparently Ives did not think too highly of him, nor did contemporary critics. Parker, who studied with Rheinberger in Munich and who - incidentally - played the organ part at the first performance of Rheinberger's First Organ Concerto, is a very traditional composer whose music bears many Germanic influences. His Organ Concerto in E flat minor Op.55 was completed in 1902, i.e. twenty years after Widor's above-mentioned symphony, and sounds as if it had been written ten years before Widor's piece. The opening movement is fairly impressive but soon outstays its welcome. The second movement Andante is a romantic, nostalgic reverie in which the first violin and first horn have almost concertante parts. The following Scherzo is, to me at least, the weakest of the concerto whereas the concluding Allegro moderato reverts to the sonorous exultant mood of the opening movement. Parker's Organ Concerto is no great masterpiece; it is too uneventful, a bit eclectic and at times bombastic, but it is still worth the occasional hearing.

These performers have already put us in their debt for their other recordings of fine, generally little-known, works for organ and orchestra. They play this unfamiliar music with conviction and affection, and the present release is again most welcome for Widor's major piece and Jongen's rarities, whereas Parker's concerto may be more of a curiosity. The recorded sound is very fine. Full marks to all concerned.

Hubert Culot

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