Widor: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 1; La nuit de Walpurgis

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LABELS: Dutton Epoch
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 1; La nuit de Walpurgis
PERFORMER: Sergey Levitin (violin); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates


After the orchestration textbooks of Berlioz and Rimsky-Korsakov, one of the great treatises on the subject was Widor’s Technique de l’orchestre modern. It was published in 1904, two-thirds of the way through the long life of a composer (1844-1937) who may today be remembered chiefly for his organ music but who had experience of writing in almost every genre. His remarkable orchestral facility lights up La nuit de Walpurgis, the substantial three-movement symphonic poem he published in 1887. This valuable new release, the third volume in Martin Yates’s Widor series, shows exactly why the Goethe-inspired score enjoyed success during the composer’s lifetime: with its echoes of Liszt, it is an orchestral tour de force full of striking ideas in which the RSNO players revel.

All three scores heard here are world premiere recordings, but the Violin Concerto required special detective and editorial work by Yates, well worth the effort to judge from this performance with the lyrical soloist Sergey Levitin. Full of attractive ideas, the piece marks a developmental step forward from the Schumann-influenced Symphony No. 1, though it too is of far greater interest than its neglect hitherto would suggest.


John Allison