Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
The Organ Symphonies - Vol. 5
Symphonie gothique, Op. 70 (No. 9) (1895) [29:42]
Symphonie romane, Op. 73 (No. 10) (1900) [32:47]
Joseph Nolan (organ)
rec. CavaillÚ-Coll organs: La Madeleine, Paris, 4-8 August 2011 (Op. 70); Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, 25-26 May 2014 (Op. 73)
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD347 [62:12]

When it comes to the organ symphonies of Charles-Marie Widor I have a number of recordings but never quite got around to getting a complete set on one label. So far as I am aware, the only other recordings of these two works are those by Jeremy Filsell on the late-lamented ASV label (CD DCA 1172) and Bj°rn Boysen on Simax PSC1155. Whilst, the ASV disc offers fine recordings (I am not familiar with the Simax), they were made in England. What these works really need if they are to be done any sort of justice is a towering French organ and especially a CavaillÚ-Coll.

Derived from the French Romantic Movement these two symphonies are not as overtly virtuosic nor as showy as some of the earlier Widor symphonies. There is nothing here to match the bombastic Toccata of the Symphony No. 5 yet they still have a power and a passion which holds your attention and makes you want to hear more. If anything I prefer this introverted and heartfelt music to the more lively movements of the other symphonies; music does not have to be all about show.

This is the second disc I have in this series. I also have volume 1 (SIGCD292). As with the earlier disc, Joseph Nolan proves himself an excellent Widor interpreter, and in this respect, this might well end up as the first complete set that I buy. Nolan’s tempos are not that dissimilar to those of Filsell. He is slightly slower in the Gothique, yet slightly quicker in the Romane, but overall he shows a good control of the music. Where Nolan is streets ahead is in his choice of instrument. He has at his disposal two wonderful CavaillÚ-Coll instruments which just lift the music. Filsell makes do with two English organs, the first in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, whilst the second is the lovely instrument of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral. The beauty of the latter instrument is lost in the challenging swirling acoustic of the round building. Here, Nolan’s instruments have been captured in beautiful sound. The engineers have made this recording a real winner. It is only to be hoped that Nolan is allowed to go on to record the organ symphonies with orchestra (1882, 1894, 1908), as well as the shorter works.

The notes are fairly good, if a little wordy at times. They come with brief descriptions of the instrument with full register, which is something you don’t get with the ASV disc.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Dominy Clements

Nolan’s instruments captured in beautiful sound. A real winner.