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Monday, October 10, 2005

Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata

(Note: While you are reading this, be sure to download the many different versions of this work with eMusic's free trial. You get 25 mp3s for free no matter what with no obligations.)

If you have ever been to a wedding with a really first-rate organist at the keyboard, then you have probably heard Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata. I first heard of this piece when I attended a Pipe Organ Encounter sponsored by the American Guild of Organists. All of the others attending couldn't stop talking about this piece and once I heard it, I understood why. It is a pyrotechnical masterpiece showcasing all of the power and fury that a grand pipe organ is capable of.

Widor is best remembered today for the Toccata, but he was a brilliant composer, organist and teacher. His students included Darius Milhaud, Marcel Dupre and Louis Vierne. He was the organist at the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris, a position he held for 67 years.

Widor wrote a total of ten symphonies for the organ. They were daunting compositions in scale, transferring all of the power and complexity of an orchestra to the organ. The Toccata is the showstopping finale of Widor's Organ Symphony No. 5 written in 1887. The toccata is a form that can be traced back to the baroque period and indeed Widor's Toccata could be compared to a composition of J.S. Bach, with its complex weaving and improvisitory use of a single motif. Interestingly, Widor's education on the organ can be traced in an unbroken line back to Bach himself.

With the Toccata being used increasingly often as a recessional piece for weddings, the music of Widor is being rediscovered. He wrote for more than just organ and many of his works have yet to be explored.

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Comments on "Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:09 AM, September 13, 2012) : 

This video is a great arrangement. You must have a listen to it !


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