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Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Organ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 13, No. 1: V. Marche Pontificale [08:25]
Organ Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 13, No. 2: IV. Salve Regina [06:22]
Organ Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 13, No. 4: III. Andante cantabile [06:41]
Organ Symphony No. 3 in E minor, Op. 13, No. 3: V. Finale: Allegro molto [07:29]
Trois nouvelles pièces, Op. 87: No. 2. Mystique [05:17]
Bach's Memento (excerpts): IV. March du Vielleur de Nuit (arr. of J.S. Bach's Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645) [03:54]; V. Sicilienne (arr. of J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in E flat major, BWV 1031: (II. Siciliano) [03:20])
Organ Symphony No. 6 in G minor, Op. 42, No. 2: I. Allegro [09:39]
Symphonie gothique, Op. 70: II. Andante sostenuto [05:35]
Organ Symphony No. 5 in F minor, Op. 42, No. 1 (I. Allegro vivace [11:25]; II. Adagio [05:39]; III. Toccata: Allegro [06:14])
Robert Delcamp (organ)
rec. St Cecilia Catholic Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska, 20-22 September 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.570310 [81:01]

This is a good potpourri-style introduction to the organ works of Charles-Marie Widor. Too often he is of course only remembered for the infamous Toccata from the end of the fifth symphony, all too frequently so poorly played. Good then for the general music enthusiast to have a budget price introduction to some other corners of the Widor oeuvre many of which deserve to be better known than the Toccata. The implication however, that Naxos’s vast Organ Encyclopaedia isn’t going to include a complete Widor cycle strikes me as particularly unfortunate. This is especially true given that Naxos’s library does include a complete Rheinberger cycle.
The most interesting element of this disc though is the choice of instrument. I wrote in glowing terms here about Martin Pasi’s extraordinary dual-temperament instrument in Omaha in the context of Julia Brown’s Buxtehude recording. That was recorded – mostly, I think - in meantone using the 28 stops of the organ available in that temperament. Perhaps more of a challenge to these historically-informed super-eclectic American organs is how they handle repertoire such as that on the present recording. It makes for fascinating listening!
If I’m honest, some of the sounds here are not sounds one associates with the world of Widor. However only occasionally - the mixture at the beginning of track 2 for instance - does an aesthetic clash wander into one’s consciousness enough for it to be uncomfortable. Other idiosyncrasies - the flexible winding – surely there could be a more effective stabiliser for this sort of repertoire - and even the pure thirds in the well-tempered tuning - listen to those big C major chords in the Marche Pontificale! - maybe take a little getting used to, but I managed. The overriding impression of this disc is of an organ of simply enormous panache and personality. The warmth of the 8’ stops, the effectiveness of the swell box, the sheer grunt of the pedal reeds – all are extraordinary. Pasi’s organ doesn’t really evoke Rouen, but it is a work of sheer brilliance. To quote the late, great Stephen Bicknell: “the work of Brombaugh, Fritts, Pasi, Taylor and Boody and even Fritts-Richards operates at a level of artistic quality that simply does not apply in Europe any more, despite the beacons offered by, say, Ahrend and Aubertin.” He wasn’t wrong.
The organ seems to inspire Robert Delcamp to better performances than I’ve enjoyed on his previous Naxos discs - on much lesser instruments. Occasionally still a little ‘square’, his flair for French repertoire is undeniable, and I can therefore recommend this is as a highly enjoyable, and, thanks to the organ, rather remarkable release.
Chris Bragg


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