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Widor's Toccata

It's one of the most famous works in organ literature, and the most famous by the composer (Charles-Marie Widor). It closes his "Symphony For Organ No. 5, Op. 42, No. 1."

It is (in my opinion) the best of the oft-used wedding recessional pieces. Many organists like to play it much faster than written, and completely ruin it in the process (I'm looking at YOU, Diane Bish!).

The composer's own recording is available on YouTube, and I don't care for that, either. The tempo of this performance is firmly in the middle, & it's perfect. I sometimes find myself listening to it on repeat. If I ever do get married, it won't involve a church, but it will involve Widor's Toccata. Are there any other fans here on DL?

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by Anonymousreply 3411/21/2020

One of my all time organ favorites, it's a splendid piece. There's something uplifting and triumphant about it. I never get tired of listening to it.

by Anonymousreply 111/19/2020

Yes, I love it too, and I played it back when I was studying music. Used it as the postlude one Christmas. It's joyous and fun to play and easier than the first movement, which also very lovely. The 6th Symphony is another Widor fave, especially the opening movement, which has a kind of monumental power.

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by Anonymousreply 211/19/2020

Thanks for starting this thread! Romantic French organ music truly is in a class of its own, especially when performed on a magnificent Cavaillé-Coll instrument.

Louis Vierne is probably my favorite French composer of organ music (after Cesar Franck!), and IMHO the last movement of his First Organ Symphony ranks right up there with Widor’s Toccata:

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by Anonymousreply 311/19/2020

I love the Diane Bish version because it matches her outfit.

by Anonymousreply 411/19/2020

Problem with Widor's Toccata is far to many playing the thing do so a warp speed, as if they are trying to prove their great skills or something by going so fast.

OTOH this is how it should sound...

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by Anonymousreply 511/19/2020

Listen to a master at work.....

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by Anonymousreply 611/19/2020

Diane Bish is such a bitch.

As for this piece for a wedding recession, just no. I suggest Tale Of The Underwater Worshippers by Korla Pandit.

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by Anonymousreply 711/19/2020

Another organist chiming in. Yes, it's a fantastic piece, but back in the day when I used to play for weddings I got SO BORED of it. The speed really depends on the building and its acoustics, but it is usually played far too fast, and the articulation gets lost in a muddy smear of sound. Cochereau is sublime.

by Anonymousreply 811/19/2020

Pierre Cochereau - Maîtrise de Notre-Dame de Paris

Man was a god!

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by Anonymousreply 911/19/2020

DL organists, tell me about this piece by Jehan Alain (played by his baby sis in the video). Is it true that the part of composition between 3:05 and 3:15 is one of the most difficult things ever for organists to master and that many simply decide to play it in an easier manner?

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by Anonymousreply 1011/19/2020

omg r9, I listen to that all the time! It and the Widor’s Toccata linked at r5. I’m basically musically ignorant but I love really dramatic pieces like this and yes, I like it faster vs the slower Cochereau at r6 (hangs head shamefully). Looking forward to hearing more.

by Anonymousreply 1111/19/2020

R10, I've been an organist for 35 years and I have studied with some masters, and mistresses of the craft. I still cannot play Litanies properly.

by Anonymousreply 1211/19/2020

How about Bach's trio sonatas, R12? My teacher used to say they were some of the most difficult pieces in the organ repertoire. They're also sublimely beautiful IMO.

by Anonymousreply 1311/19/2020

R13 - Yes, I’ve heard the same thing about the JSB trio sonatas; I think it is because each part/voice is so “exposed” in the simplicity of the structure that the slightest error can send the piece/mood/affect crashing instantaneously.

Apparently, the same is true of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. I once asked a violinist friend which concerto she considered the most difficult (she played them ALL - Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Bruch, etc.) and she immediately responded “Beethoven’s; the violin part is 100% exposed throughout the entire concerto.

by Anonymousreply 1411/19/2020

I can play them all, after a fashion. Some I play well, others I approximate. Achieving mastery of them, much like achieving mastery over Alain, requires an innate talent and a dedication to hard work that I simply don't possess. These days, I play solely for my own pleasure, and my partner's - or at least he is kind enough to say that my playing gives him pleasure - so I pass over the technical inexactness without too much guilt.

Ton Koopman's interpretations of the trio sonatas are sublime. I have heard a lot of criticism about his tendency to mix Italian and North German baroque styles, but I think that Bach, who was a master of both styles, would have played them in a similar manner.

by Anonymousreply 1511/19/2020

R5 That performance is definitely superior to the one I linked!

by Anonymousreply 1611/19/2020

R7 & R8 I admit that I could be a little more creative with the musical program of my one-day wedding (especially as a musician myself), and I know this has been done to death for decades, but I love it so. Thank you for the suggestion, R7. I'm eager to give it a listen.

R8 Your comment reminded me of a college fuck buddy I had (early 2000s), who was a member of a string quartet (or trio, depending upon who decided to show up at any given time). The ensemble had two or three regular weekly gigs at restaurants around town, and would also hire themselves out for weddings. They'd play anything requested of them at the services, but vehemently refused to include Pachelbel's Cannon in D in their restaurant repertoire, regardless of who asked for it.

They'd all once enjoyed playing it, but the joy had long been driven out of the experience, due to repeated requests over several years. I can absolutely understand how this would happen, and if the piece is especially wonderful, it's even worse.

I've known church organists & pianists to alternate between two whole special music programs for holidays, and special observances, from one year to the next. So, if we were to hear Widor's Toccata as a postlude at Christmas 2020, we wouldn't hear it again until at least 2022. I can appreciate that.

But there are things that appear every year, and the congregation looks forward to them. Fauré's "The Palms" prelude, for instance.

Anyway, I'm enjoying this thread so far!

...And Diane Bish really is an asshole.

by Anonymousreply 1711/19/2020

R14 that comment is very well expressed and shows a mastery of the semi-colon, in addition to a great knowledge of music.

by Anonymousreply 1811/19/2020

Widor's Toccata is also frequently used as an Easter Postlude. I'm an amateur organist and it's a piece I've never mastered.

There are quite a few French toccatas that are also good. Louis Vierne and Léon Boëllmann also have wonderful Toccatas.

Jehan Alain's "Litanies" is another great piece. A moderate tempo is the best. I've heard it too slow and too fast. His sister Marie Claire Alain has a recording of it that is about right.

by Anonymousreply 1911/19/2020

I had a fabulous music teacher at high school. Once we went to view an exhibition of spinners, harpsichord and forte pianos at a cathedral. He was allowed to play in each one as he was well known in that city's music scene. That was nice enough. Then we went up to the big church organ for him to have a tiddle. A bit of Bach, all very nice. Then I asked him if he could do the Widor and he pulled out a few stops and LET RIP! It was so exciting and loud! We were so lucky to have him as a teacher. So knowledgeable and completely without the hideous snobbery you find in music circles. RIP Geoffrey Skeritt.

by Anonymousreply 2011/19/2020

I love the Marie Claire recording, R19. Well worth a listen, especially if you have good speakers.

Also, this is a recording of Charles Marie Widor playing his toccata on the organ of St Sulpice. I believe it was recorded in 1933, when he was aged 89.

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by Anonymousreply 2111/20/2020

And this is Marie Claire Alain playing her brother's Litanies. Not sure when it was recorded, but as she died in 2013, there's a good chance it wasn't later than that.

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by Anonymousreply 2211/20/2020

I finally listened to Diane Bish and now I understand what people mean by playing it fast. She’s off to the races.

by Anonymousreply 2311/20/2020

Exactly, R23. Bish possesses technical ability and understanding in spades. But an artist, and interpreter of literature...she is not. Her true (unfulfilled) calling was the position of pedagogue.

by Anonymousreply 2411/20/2020

Diane Bish plays it like a musical track from a Looney Tunes cartoon.

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by Anonymousreply 2511/20/2020

Word is that Bish is a Lesbyterian.

by Anonymousreply 2611/20/2020

Don’t use the box Like Virgil Fox . . .

by Anonymousreply 2711/20/2020

I know some people think it's just a show piece, but listen to this bitch (and it's a real she) play the Sinfonia to Cantata 29.

She's really feeling it.

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by Anonymousreply 2811/20/2020

R28 - Uh, no. She’s plays that organ like a typewriter - very dry and mechanically.

by Anonymousreply 2911/20/2020

You're not hearing it, R29.

by Anonymousreply 3011/20/2020

No, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be hearing - seriously.

Here’s something I learned by sitting through 3 weeks, 4 rounds, and 100+ contestants at one of the Chopin Piano Competitions in Warsaw: If a performer doesn’t capture the spirit of a piece and draw the listener into that experience within the first 15 seconds, then everything that follows doesn’t matter.

She lost me after 10 seconds.

by Anonymousreply 3111/20/2020

Here's another performance of the same piece. I quite like this one.

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by Anonymousreply 3211/20/2020

De gustibus.

The performer @R32 takes liberties with the Dupre transcription, I suppose in the way of embellishments, which I don't think the music needs. I also think he plays it with less feeling. One of the miracles of Bach is how he can convey deep feeling with very little, if any, metric variation, and often without any change in registration. I get that from Schumacher's performance, no so much in the one above.

by Anonymousreply 3311/21/2020

Taste, indeed. Although I would point out that this is the Hebble transcription, not Dupre.

Since this is Datalounge, can we agree that the organist in R32 is quite pretty?

by Anonymousreply 3411/21/2020
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