Widor: Organ Symphonies Op 42 & 81 / Solyom, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
It's great to have this music available in spectacular SACD surround-sound. Though these two symphonies have been recorded previously (notably on Motette), this release roundly eclipses previous issues both sonically and interpretively. The organ in the Bamberg Symphony's concert hall is a magnificent instrument, and very well suited to both the grand and intimate aspects of Widor's writing. The Op. 42 symphony was arranged from one of the composer's earlier symphonies for organ solo, and the orchestra here is basically just along for the ride. Still, Widor's use of the contrast between massive, fortissimo chords for organ as opposed to the orchestra is very effective, and it's spectacularly captured by the Bavarian Radio engineers. Organist Christian Schmitt exploits the varied tone colors of his instrument extremely effectively at lower dynamic levels in the central slow movement--the whole piece is just great fun.
The Sinfonia Sacra is another matter: it's one of the great masterpieces in the literature for organ and orchestra. Cast as a single continuous movement some 30 minutes long, it's a probing, mostly meditative, harmonically interesting piece that brilliantly exploits the organ both alone and in every conceivable combination with the orchestra before rising to a grandly solemn final climax. It deserves to be as popular as, say, Poulenc's Organ Concerto, and it certainly should be heard more often in concert halls that have decent instruments. Its comparative neglect is astonishing. Conductor Stefan Solyom accompanies alertly here, keeping the music flowing and creating some lovely interplay between the orchestra and the soloist, and the orchestra follows him with total conviction. If you love good Romantic orchestral music, don't let this release pass you by.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 777443-2
Composer: Charles-Marie Widor
Conductor: Stefan Solyom
Orchestra/Ensemble: Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Performer: Christian Schmitt