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If there’s one organ in the world on which you’d want to have recordings of these stellar Widor symphonies then it might well be Cavaillé-Coll’s last great masterpiece, described by Widor himself as ‘worthy of Michaelangelo’. But if you’re going to record this music on one of the most exalted instruments in the history of the craft, you’d better know how to do it justice. Christian Schmitt certainly does, producing a very classy set of performances in which tempi are always moderated sufficiently to allow the organ to speak on its own terms, tempo rubato is judiciously judged, and in which the occasional banalities of the music are consistently raised to greater things. Schmitt is a former pupil of Daniel Roth, Widor’s present-day successor at St Sulpice, and has clearly immersed himself fully in the style. There are too many highlights to mention, but the sense of a struggle hard won at the end of the opening movement of the Fifth, the monumental rhetoric at the opening of the Sixth, and the timeless sense of lyricism in the various Adagios, are all exceptionally handled. Of the many recordings of this organ, the sound here is at the more direct end of the spectrum, although not disturbingly so.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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