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timothyguntrip

Widor Symphony Movements

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Having just spent an enjoyable afternoon listening to various movements from the symphonies, a couple of thoughts:

 

Firstly - we often see the same movements turning up time after time in programmes (although I'm not complaining - hearing Gerard Brooks play the first movement of the 6th at St.Sulpice a few years ago was particularly fine). It would be interesting if we could share some of the other movements that we play / enjoy, which don't get so much airplay. As an example, I find the Choral from the 7th Symphony a most charming movement, which hardly ever seems to be played. Any to share?

 

Secondly - which symphony would you nominate as the most cohesive whole? I've never played any in their entirety, but many colleagues and organists I've discussed this with consider the 6th to claim this title. I would nominate the 4th as very fitting to this category as well. What's your thought?

 

(With a lot of time on my hands at the moment, I'm looking back into some of them - in between watching the Olympics and waiting for my toaster to be mended...)

 

VA

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I can't confess to knowing all the Widor symphony movements. However, is there a reason why not much of the material has made it into the mainstream repertoire? Is it too technically demanding, or just not brilliant music?

 

Obviously we have

5 - Allegro and Toccata (the former is much more interesting, the latter ubiquitous!)

6 - Allegro and Final (I've never found the Final that interesting though I'm afraid)

1 - Marche Pontificale (an excellent, rousing piece)

 

Beyond that, I don't think there's much in there that we could call mainstream is there? The Final from 2 is a good piece, and I like the Final from 8 as well which has a nice rhythmic drive to it.

 

As to the most coherent, I couldn't say.

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Having moved house twice in 5 months I have not even found my Widor copies/CDs yet! But I wonder if one issue for the neglect of Widor movements is that the end doesn't justify the means - like Rheinberger, many Widor movement are more rewarding to hear rather than to learn and play. There are plenty of movements from Rheinberger sonatas that I enjoy separately, or as two contrasting movements, but I would only play a small handful of Rheinberger sonatas all through. Similarily I find some Widor symphonies / movements don't arouse enough interest to make it worth the time to learn. A little time ago I listened to a fine recitalist play an entire Widor symphony and at times the musical material didnt engage interest and seemed endless - being a Sunday afternoon, the sleepy looks on faces of the largish audience also suggested an induced corporate somnambulance! Having said that, there are definitely some beautiful moments in each symphony. (Didnt someone once say that Wagner had fine moments and long half hours?!).The 4th has a charming quiet movement, and the 2nd an engaging and 'reverent' quiet movement one as well as a cheerful finale. Despite it's 'ubiqutous' toccata the 5th has fine movements (although the jaunty pedal solo that starts one of them always makes me think we are about to hear a slow 50s rock song...) I think the 5th and 6th are probably the most homogenous as a whole - perhaps Widor reached his peak halfway through the ten symphonies?

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Having just spent an enjoyable afternoon listening to various movements from the symphonies, a couple of thoughts:

 

Firstly - we often see the same movements turning up time after time in programmes (although I'm not complaining - hearing Gerard Brooks play the first movement of the 6th at St.Sulpice a few years ago was particularly fine). It would be interesting if we could share some of the other movements that we play / enjoy, which don't get so much airplay. As an example, I find the Choral from the 7th Symphony a most charming movement, which hardly ever seems to be played. Any to share?

 

Secondly - which symphony would you nominate as the most cohesive whole? I've never played any in their entirety, but many colleagues and organists I've discussed this with consider the 6th to claim this title. I would nominate the 4th as very fitting to this category as well. What's your thought?

 

(With a lot of time on my hands at the moment, I'm looking back into some of them - in between watching the Olympics and waiting for my toaster to be mended...)

 

VA

 

I would nominate the Second Symphony - with the provision that the (later) Salve Regina is replaced with the (original) Scherzo. I have recorded this symphony complete, in this format. (The CD is still available, in case anyone is interested in purchasing a copy....)

 

Howver, one of the possible drawbacks is that Widor could be said to ramble somewhat - particularly in his slower movements - in a way that perhaps Vierne does not. Whilst there is at least one movement in the Second Symphony which does tend towards this fault, taken as a whole, there is a cohesion and a tightness of structure.

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I've always had a soft spot for the VIII th - albeit without the Prelude & Variations if pushed.

 

If that's a non-no then Symph IV or VI beckons...

 

 

MGP

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(Didnt someone once say that Wagner had fine moments and long half hours?!).

 

It was Rossini, in fact. "M. Wagner a de beaux moments, mais de mauvais quart-d'heures".

 

Is anyone else heretically inclined to 'mix'n-match' movements from different Rheinberger sonatas at times, to come up with a more satifying 3- or 4- course repast?

 

JS

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I would nominate the Second Symphony - with the provision that the (later) Salve Regina is replaced with the (original) Scherzo. I have recorded this symphony complete, in this format. (The CD is still available, in case anyone is interested in purchasing a copy....)

 

Howver, one of the possible drawbacks is that Widor could be said to ramble somewhat - particularly in his slower movements - in a way that perhaps Vierne does not. Whilst there is at least one movement in the Second Symphony which does tend towards this fault, taken as a whole, there is a cohesion and a tightness of structure.

 

Certainly agree with the tendency of some movements to 'ramble'. I may then take a look at the 2nd Symphony then.

 

Completely agree about Vierne - excepting his 5th, which seems to prattle on endlessly without going anywhere!

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Is anyone else heretically inclined to 'mix'n-match' movements from different Rheinberger sonatas at times, to come up with a more satifying 3- or 4- course repast?

 

JS

 

This is a very interesting thought too. I find Rheinberger also loses the plot a bit in his quieter movements. Having only ever played a few selected movements from these, I'm not sure how I would sandwich those I actually DO play together!

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As to te most cohesive Widor symphony, I would always go for the Romane. I find it an overwhelming, if not necessarily easy-to-grasp, piece of truly symphonic literature.

 

For the Second I always had a soft spot, maybe because it was the first Widor Symphony I experienced as a whole. The Salve Regina, I admit, is a bit strange within the context, but it also is a very good piece. So even if the Hunt Scherzo seems to go better with the lovely Pastorale, I am not sure which to prefer. In recital, it might be a good choice to go as Ben van Oosten did: the Salve Regina with the Symphony, the Scherzo as an encore. The penultimate Adagio is one beautifully dark piece!

 

I wonder why no-one has mentioned the Third so far. It has a beautiful sad hue about it, ranging between Serious (1st mov), mildly melancholic (Minuet) and dramatic (Finale), and there is a monumental March in this one as well, that quite benefits from being played not too heavy-footed.

 

That being said, the Widor movements that are played in recitals the most -- VIth, 1st and last, Vth 1st, 4th &5th, Gothique 1st -- are, I suspect, in fact the best compositions, apart from the Romane as a whole. He was a good composer, but did not always arrive at the same level of quality. In that context, I still find II 1st a pretty fine composition.

 

Best, Friedrich

 

P. S.

There is a very fine recording by Joris Verdin who plays all of four op. 13 in their original versions. Talking about coherent. Not all movements as interesting as in the later editions, but the symphonies in themselves much more homogenous. And a brilliant organ. See also

.

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Adagio from I, as well as the above-mentioned, gorgeous Méditation

Menuetto from III

Scherzo from IV

2nd movt (slushy like Rachmaninov) and 3rd movt (a scherzo) of VIII - staples of Thomas Trotter's programmes

Andante sostenuto from Gothique, which I'm surprised no-one's mentioned

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