|No. 335 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast335|
As large organs became more common in new concert halls in the later 19th century, a modest repertoire of celebratory music for organ and orchestra also began to develop. The three works featured this week – two symphonies with organ and a short festive piece for organ and orchestra exemplify how composers use the organ both as a way to extend colours and as a “friendly foe” to the orchestra.
The opening piece, Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva, was composed for the inauguration of a new organ at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Mary Curtis Zimbalist, a friend and patron of the composer since his youth at the Curtis Institute, funded the organ and also commissioned this piece. Paul Callaway, the organist and music director at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., played the organ at the premiere in September 1960, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Today’s performance, coincidentally, comes from the inauguration of the Cooper Memorial Organ, housed in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new home, Verizon Hall. The soloist, Olivier Latry, is the principal organist at Notre Dame de Paris, thus providing a “French Connection”.
Aaron Copland was famously one of the first American pupils of the great French musical pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. In his “Organ Symphony,” Copland commented, “you hear rhythms that would not have been there if I had not been born and raised in Brooklyn.” This is also the symphony that provoked the famous comment from Walter Damrosch – after its premiere in 1925: “…if a gifted young man can write a symphony like this at 23, within five years he will be ready to commit murder!” Nadia Boulanger, who herself played the organ for the same premiere, found that “the work is so brilliant, so full of music…”
Charles-Marie Widor had published no fewer than ten solo organ symphonies by 1900; he also wrote orchestral symphonies with organ solo parts – the other major example being the later Sinfonia Sacra of 1908. His Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra was commissioned by Sir Daniel Barton, the English consul general in Geneva, for the organ in the newly built Victoria Hall in that city. It was premiered on 28 November 1894 by the Harmonie Nautique Orchestra of which Sir Daniel was president. The work is in two main sections, reminiscent of another (more commonly heard) similar symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns.
I think you will love this music too