Charles-Marie Jean Albert Widor (21 February 1844, Lyon, France – 12 March 1937, Paris) was a French organist, composer and teacher.
Widor was born to a family of organ builders, and initially studied music there with his father, François-Charles Widor, titular organist of Saint-François-de-Sales from 1838 to 1889. The French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll arranged for the talented young organist to study in Brussels in 1863 with Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens for organ technique and with the elderly François-Joseph Fétis, director of the Brussels Conservatoire, for composition. After this term of study, Widor moved to Paris where he resided for the rest of his life. At the age of 24, he was appointed assistant to Camille Saint-Saëns at Église de la Madeleine.
In January 1870, with the combined lobbying of Cavaillé-Coll, Saint-Saëns, and Charles Gounod, the 25-year-old Widor was appointed as "provisional" organist of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the most prominent position for a French organist. Despite his job's ostensibly "provisional" nature, Widor remained as organist at St-Sulpice for nearly 64 years until the end of 1933.
In 1890, upon the death of César Franck, Widor succeeded him as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire. Later (1896), he gave up this post to become composition professor at the same institution. Widor had several students in Paris who were to become famous composers and organists in their own right, including Charles Tournemire, Darius Milhaud, Alexander Schreiner, Albert Schweitzer, Edgard Varèse, and the Canadian Henri Gagnon.
Well known as a man of great culture and learning, Widor was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1892, and reached the rank of a Grand-Officier de la Légion d'honneur in 1933. He was named to the Institut de France in 1910, and was elected "Secrétaire perpetuel" (permanent secretary) of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1914. In 1921, Widor founded the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau with Francis-Louis Casadesus. He was the director until 1934, when he was succeeded by Maurice Ravel.
Widor wrote music for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles (some of his songs for voice and piano are especially notable) and composed four operas and a ballet, but only his works for organ are played with any regularity today. These include: ten organ symphonies, three symphonies for orchestra with organ, Suite Latine, Trois Nouvelles Pièces, and six arrangements of works by Bach under the title Bach's Memento (1925). The organ symphonies are his most significant contribution to the organ repertoire.
Works for Winds
- Lord, Save Thy People (1916)
- Les Pêcheurs de St. Jean ( arr. Parès)
- Marche Americaine
- Ouverture Espagnole (arr. Foare)
- Pontifical March (arr. Richards) (2014)
- Serenade (arr. van Erp)
- Toccata (tr. Croft) (1879/1999)
- Charles-Marie Widor, Wikipedia Accessed 25 November 2020
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Charles Marie Widor." Accessed 25 November 2020