WIDOR – A New Edition of the 10 Symphonies for Organ
Dear fellow organists,
I am pleased to announce today that I have just completed a brand new edition of the ten symphonies for organ by Charles-Marie Widor. By visiting the site www.lucdupuis.org/en/widor you can get an idea of its appearance. Currently, the foreword and the edition notes are written in French, but I plan to add an English translation of the texts, as soon as I have found an English-speaking organist who can help me in this task. I have already done a translation project for the foreword (14 pages), but the translation of the edition notes (18 pages) is more delicate. Interested people can contact me from my website. I thank in advance the future collaborator who will agree to sign the English translation.
Presentation of Work
The case of the ten symphonies for organ by Charles-Marie Widor is very particular in the sense that practically all the manuscripts have disappeared, or at least remain untraceable. Only a manuscript of the tenth symphony?–?called Romane?–?is kept at the ‘Bibliothèque Nationale de France’, in an incomplete state. Many old editions, contemporaneous with Widor, remained under the exclusivity of the rights-holder publishers until Widor’s work fell into the public domain. Although these editions contain many errors, the editor owners have not seen fit to put a little order in them, which leaves the organists in front of countless unresolved questions and opens the door to misguidance, sometimes very damaging.
There are several reasons why it is difficult to understand Widor’s organ work under these conditions. We must first underline the complexity that music publishing represented at that time. The clean-up of the score was entrusted to engravers. Music was copied backwards onto metal plates using punches, a laborious task that was sometimes entrusted to small hands with little skill in music theory and musical writing. This work accomplished, the publisher was reluctant to have proofs checked by the composer before sending it to print, given the cost of correcting one or even several pages. Furthermore, Widor barely took the time to proofread his manuscripts before taking them to his publisher, who he rushed to when the ink was just dry, so he could quickly move on. And as throughout his long life, Widor revised his work a lot, many editions were published, including sometimes very different versions.
When Widor’s work fell into the public domain?–?in 1987 in the United States and in 2007 in Europe?–?a few new editions saw the light of day, but with great economy of initiative and refraining from any modification in the original formulation of the text, often equivocal, impractical, even problematic.
It therefore appeared to me the obvious need to offer an edition of the complete symphonies for organ by Widor, which meets the need for clarity on a practical level. I rely mainly on my experience as a teacher of harmony and analysis at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, as well as that of a composer and organist very familiar with the French repertoire of that time. My work was not done only on the table, but largely at the console of an organ, which is one of the particularities of my approach. This therefore favors the practical aspect, but does not exclude rigor and respect for the composer’s thought. We are not in the context of a dirigiste edition, such as that of the organ works of J. S. Bach by Marcel Dupré, for example, imposing his personal vision of interpretation. All the interventions in the score are indicated in the edition notes, so that they appear clearly to the eyes of the interpreter, who can question them if he wishes. As for the suggestions, they are not the result of a personal choice, but of a careful analysis of the music.
The score has been completely rewritten for the sake of clarity, playability and a good understanding of musical signs, the meaning of which has sometimes changed over the past century. As far as clarity is concerned, numerous redundant indications are removed, passages written on four staves reduced to three, and those written in the C clef presented in the G and F clefs. As for playability, an ergonomic distribution between the two hands is proposed, facilitating at the same time legato playing and substitutions, a practice often forgotten these days. Also, hand crossovers are rewritten to avoid them in most cases. Solutions are offered for instruments with a combiner, 61-note manuals, and a 32-note pedalboard. The unplayable features are the subject of an adaptation proposal in order to achieve a result as close as possible to the initial writing. Finally, with reference to the musical practices of Widor’s time (explained in detail in the foreword), a rewriting according to our contemporary habits of reading indications having changed meaning allows a better understanding of the appropriate phrasing.
This new edition of Widor’s symphonies for organ in ten volumes therefore offers a clear answer to the many questions that performers of this music may ask themselves and now allows each organist to approach these ten symphonies from the angle of their choice. This integral is also available in three volumes, bringing together opus 13, opus 42 and the last two symphonies. The scores are presented in landscape format, which is perfectly appropriate for an organ console. Each score or volume is also available as a PDF file with links from the summary for multimedia tablets or e-ink readers.
All this fully justifies the term ‘practical edition’ that could be attributed to this publication.