He was succeeded in 1934 by his former student Marcel Dupré. Meanwhile, in 1890 he succeeded César Franck as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where he also became composition professor in 1896. Widor's best-known single piece for the organ is the final movement, Toccata, from his Symphony for Organ no 5, which is often played as a recessional at wedding ceremonies and even at the close of the Christmas Midnight Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica. Widor was pleased with the world-wide renown this single piece afforded him, but he was unhappy with how fast many other organists played it. Widor himself always played the Toccata rather deliberately.
He recorded the piece, along with his Symphony Gothique at St Sulpice in his eighty-eighth year. Widor had several students in Paris who were to become famous composers in their own right, most notably Darius Milhaud, Marcel Dupré and Edgard Varèse. He wrote music himself for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles (some of his songs for voice and piano are especially notable) and composed four operas and a ballet, but only his works for organ are played with any regularity today. Widor showed no interest in breaking new ground by stretching tonality to its limits, as many of his colleagues did. However, his music is not unoriginal or dull.
Much of it is tremendously effective in the most idiomatic way for the organ, but it offers few startling surprises. Widor's organ works include: ten Symphonies, Suite Latine, Trois Nouvelles Pièces, and six arrangements of works by Bach under the title Bach's Memento (1925). The symphonies are his most significant contribution to the organ repertoire. It seems unusual to assign the term "symphony" to a work written for one instrument. However, Widor was at the forefront of a revival in French organ music, which had sunk to a low point during the eighteenth century. A prime mover in this revival was Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who pioneered a new organ that was symphonic in style.
The organ of the Baroque and Classical periods was designed to project a clear and crisp sound capable of handling contrapuntal writing. Cavaillé-Coll's organs had a much warmer sound, ideal for the homophonic style of writing that now predominated, and a vast array of stops that extended the timbre of the instrument. This new style of organ with a truly orchestral range of voicing encouraged composers to write music that was truly symphonic in scope. This trend was not limited to France, and was reflected in Germany by the works of Franz Liszt, Julius Reubke, and Max Reger. Widor's symphonies can be divided into three groups.
The first four symphonies comprise Op. 13 (1872) and are more properly termed "suites" (Widor himself called them "collections".) They represent Widor's early style. Widor made later revisions to the earlier symphonies. Some of these revisions were quite extensive.
The early symphonies show great variety in writing, but neither the individual movements nor the symphonies themselves compare to his later works. The second group of symphonies, Symphonies 5-8, are part of Op. 42 (1878-1887). The Fifth Symphony has five movements and closes with the famous Toccata. The opening movement of the Sixth Symphony is also very famous.
The Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, while not very well known, contain some truly remarkable and exciting moments, and are by far the longest of Widor's Symphonies, employing the full scope of sonorities of which Cavaillé-Coll's organ at St Sulpice was capable. The ninth and tenth symphonies, respectively termed "Gothique" (Op. 70, of 1895) and "Romane" (Op. 73, of 1900), are much more introspective. They both derive thematic material from plainchant.
Although these symphonies are considered to represent the pinnacle of Widor's development as a composer, they are not as famous as the fifth and sixth symphonies. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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|Organ Symphony No. 5: Toccata|
|Symphony No.5 in F Minor, Op.42 No.1 for Organ: 5. Toccata (Allegro)|
|Toccata (Symphony No. 5)|