Widor, Charles-Marie – La Korrigane, Ballet fantastique (Piano reduction)
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Remembered today primarily for his association with the organ of St. Sulpice and as creator of the organ symphony, Charles-Marie Widor was not limited to this sphere of musical activity during his lifetime, although such luminaries as Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Délibes, and Massenet would flock to the organ loft to hear him improvise. Rather, Widor was known and well-respected as a composer of chamber music, concerti, ballet music, incidental music, songs, liturgical works, and orchestral compositions. For a large part of his professional career he was closely associated with the Paris Conservatoire, succeeding César Franck as professor of organ, and under Theodore Dubois’s directorship, serving as professor of composition. His most famous organ students included Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, and Albert Schweitzer, while Nadia Boulanger, Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud studied composition with him.
Born in Lyons, Widor came from a family connected intimately with the organ; his grandfather was an organ builder and his father was likewise a builder but also an organist; it was from him that the young Widor received his first lessons. After these reasonably humble beginnings, Widor was encouraged by none other than the great organ builder Cavaillé-Coll to study organ with Jacques Lemmens in Brussels. There he also studied composition with the famous musicologist and lexicographer François Fétis. From Fétis he became well-grounded in counterpoint and harmony, while as a student of Lemmens, the organ music of Bach was de rigueur, as Lemmens was from a line of organists who could trace their lineage back to the German master himself. Upon completion of his studies in Brussels, Widor became organist in Lyon at the church of St. François, until in 1870 he was appointed to the post of organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, where he remained for over 60 years. While the organ loft at St. Sulpice was Widor’s home, musically speaking, his compositional productivity was not limited solely to liturgical music. The career of organist was popular during this time, and organ lofts attracted many famous composers including Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Franck, Fauré and Dubois, all of whom had healthy careers outside of the church. In 1910 Widor was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts and became its permanent secretary, a position which he took very seriously and with much professionalism. For, while he recognized that some artists, such as Debussy and Rodin, did not like him, he was able to lay aside personal feelings and encourage them to apply as members of the Institute.
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