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Committed Widorians will need no urging to acquire this intelligently compiled, generously assembled paean to a composer who claimed he was ‘born in an organ pipe’ and came to dominate the French organ school.

With two DVDs, two CDs, a combined viewing and listening time of more than seven hours and an 86-page colour-illustrated booklet, this is a lavish package indeed, and one worthy of its subject.

The first DVD offers a watchable and informative documentary portrait of a composer at the epicentre of the profound changes in organ building and music-making that blossomed in France after the fallow period following the Revolution. Erudite contributions from Widor biographers John R. Near and Anne-Isabelle de Parcevaux are skilfully intercut with commentary and performances by Gerard Brooks.

All offer revealing insights into matters as diverse as Widor’s fixation with posture at the organ (one contemporary noted he looked ‘almost like royalty’), his vast library of 7,000 books on subjects both apposite and arcane, and the development of his compositional style – variously influenced by Bach, Wagner and plainchant – towards symphonic gesture and orchestral sophistication. Similarly with considerations of Widor’s contributions to operas, ballets, chamber and orchestral music and the wider context he inhabited.

Discussions on his illustrious predecessor Lefébure-Wély, his teacher Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens and the support of organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who chose Widor to inaugurate many new instruments, also contribute much of interest and value.

The second DVD features complete performances of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and movements from the other five by Brooks and Daniel Roth – his recorded live – together with the Symphonie gothique played by Carolyn Shuster Fournier. (All also feature on the two accompany- ing CDs.)

On the portrait DVD, Will Fraser’s direction is deftly eloquent, Simon Still’s camera observant but unobtrusive and the unaccredited editing elegantly fluid and involving.

Plaudits, too, for the supporters of the crowd-funding campaign that produced this fine and essential release.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing