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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 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.
by ludu
Jul 12, 2022 10:05 AM

Replies (2)

RE: WIDOR – A New Edition of the 10 Symphonies for Organ

Dear fellow organists,

Today, I am pleased to announce that the bilingual version (French/English) is now available. The translation was done by English-speaking organist Andrew Carter, who even took care to use American and English terminologies side by side (e.g. eighth note = quaver), so that everyone is comfortable with his (her) reading habits.

This is the very first complete edition of Widor’s Ten Organ Symphonies to be published in landscape format and whose engraving, paper and binding are of very high quality. The texts that surround each symphony finally make it possible to understand how to perform Widor and how to solve the many problematic cases. And yet the price of this edition is two to three times cheaper than the other musicological editions currently on the market.

Each symphony can be acquired separately or in more economical volumes grouping together several symphonies. Also, in both cases, you can choose between the traditional sheet music or the PDF version. The PDF version is mainly designed for reading on a tablet or an e-reader, with tactile links from the table of contents to the different parts of the score. But it can also be used as a print-at-home edition, which costs about 2/3 the price of the sheet music, for those who are looking above all for a crushed price.

All the information as well as excerpts from the score can be viewed at Thank you in advance for your visit to my site.


by ludu
Aug 23, 2022 05:54 AM

RE: WIDOR – A New Edition of the 10 Symphonies for Organ

Hello, dear colleagues,

I'm pleased to give you a sneak preview of a review that will soon be published in Forum Kirchenmuzik (Germany).

Anyone who plays Widor’s organ symphonies on the basis of the old editions published between 1872 and 1920 will be familiar with the difficulties of approaching this music, due to the enormous number of errors and inconsistencies in the musical text. The complicated copyright situation is directly linked to the problem of the text: Widor’s work fell into the public domain in 1987 in the United States, but only in 2007 in the European Union. John NEAR’s first complete American edition went unchallenged in Europe for 20 years, which gave it time to establish itself and to be considered by many as the reference edition?–?with all the errors it peddled.

In parallel with the edition presented a few years ago by Carus, the Belgian composer and organist Luc Dupuis […] has just published a complete and critical, but at the same time very practical, edition of all Widor’s symphonies. As someone who has been familiar with Widor’s organ works for more than half a century, Dupuis has also been confronted with the countless errors contained in older editions, which continue to be produced and to raise questions to this day. The changes that Dupuis has made to the transmitted musical text can be explained by a very well-founded discernment from the point of view of compositional technique, but also are primarily reflected in the revision of the partly disastrous musical image of the first editions, which Dupuis has transposed into a clearly legible horizontal layout.

Consequently, this edition is the result of several decades of study of Widor’s work: it departs from the traditional practices of scientific and critical editions in that it does not overload the musical text with notes, brackets and cross-references of all kinds. Each intervention is precisely indicated by an editorial note at the end of the score, which can be read at anyone’s discretion. Everyone is free to decide how much they want to read, in order to improve the readability of the edition. This ensures that editorial decisions remain comprehensible (and are also fully translated into English). The volumes are accompanied by prefaces by the composer?–?also bilingual?–?as well as fundamental remarks on the interpretation of the music of Widor and his school.

The editions are published on a self-publishing basis and are available on the publisher’s website in printed form (if the collections are purchased in the practical ring-binder layout) or at a reduced price as a PDF download; their great advantage lies in the ease with which they can be read and turned over, and consequently in the practical handling of the volumes, which is due to the publisher’s remarkable experience.

Birger Petersen, Forum Kirchenmusik (Germany), translated from German
by ludu
Jul 31, 2023 07:40 AM

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