Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for college undergraduates
James Galway & Christopher O’Riley. Suite for Flute and Piano, Op. 34. Sony Music, 2014. MP3.
Hirabayashi, Catherine R. “The Influence of J.S. Bach and Paul Taffanel on the Romances for Flute by Saint-Saëns and Widor.” Order No. 10127015 California State University, Long Beach, 2016. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2016.
Charles-Marie Widor was one of the most revered organists of his time. Born 1844 of Lyon, France, he spent 64 years of his life as the organist of St. Sulpice. He had a large number of students, including Honegger, Tournemire, Vierne, Milhaud, Albert Schweitzer, and Marcel Dupré. Most of his compositions naturally featured the organ, with his Ninth Symphony, Symphony gothique, being the best known of his works. Widor was chosen to perform the inaugural concerts of many great organs like the Notre-Dame de Paris. He also composed a series of orchestral symphonies that included organ, along with chamber music, piano music, operas, and various vocal and choral work. Widor died in Paris at the age of 93.
The piece was dedicated to the most important French flautist and flute teacher of the time, Paul Taffanel, who was Widor’s colleague at the time. Taffanel gave its first performance in 1884. Although the piece had the potential of being a sonata, Widor decided to call it a suite because the first movement does not follow a typical sonata-allegro movement. Instead of a development, Widor focused more so on lyrical ideas. The Romance movement is the slow and beautiful section of the piece. It contains a cadenza section in the middle of the movement. The piece’s Final, contains dazzling and brilliant flute lines with a virtuosic characteristic mimicked in the piano part, finishing with an exciting accelerando to the end.