Widor: Les pêchers de Saint-Jean

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LABELS: Dutton
ALBUM TITLE: Widor: Les pêchers de Saint-Jean
WORKS: Cello Concerto; symphony No. 2; Les pêchers de Saint-Jean
PERFORMER: Torleif Thedéen (cello); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates


Finally emerging from the shadows, or at least from the organ loft, Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) is at last being recognised as not only one of the most outstanding Parisian organist-composers but also as a versatile musical voice. His songs and chamber music have already enjoyed a few recordings, yet his operas await rediscovery. Tantalisingly, this second volume from Dutton (which previously released his works for piano and orchestra) opens with three orchestral numbers from his opera
Les pêcheurs de Saint-Jean. Premiered in 1905 (truly a year of the sea in French music, which also saw the birth of Debussy’s La mer), the long overture shows Widor by this stage of his career to have been heavily in thrall to Wagner, but the interlude ‘Le calme de la mer’ and the ‘Marche de Noël’ bear testimony to his brilliant orchestration.

Martin Yates and the RSNO are also compelling in the vigorous Second Symphony (1882), but the highlight of the disc is the Cello Concerto. Dating from 1878 and thus almost contemporaneous with the famous Fifth Organ Symphony, the work is fresh and thematically well developed. Torleif Thedéen’s warm-toned playing of the solo part deserves to be heard not only on disc but in the concert hall, too.


John Allison