Charles-Marie Widor


Charles Widor

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) is known for his Toccata above all other works, but he composed symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, choral works and songs.

Life and Music

  • Widor was born to play the organ: his father was an organist and organ builder, just as his grandfather had been. 
  • Widor could count himself as a great-great-great-grand pupil of J.S.Bach, whose organ music was to become central to his musical life.
  • His most important contribution to music history rests in the mammoth works he wrote between 1872 and 1900: the 10 Organ Symphonies.
  • Widor’s choice of the term ‘symphony’ is unusual, since the works are for solo organ. He chose it to reflect the music’s sonority: the huge organs developed by his friend Aristide Cavaillé-Coll revolutionised the art of organ building and were capable of producing a previously undreamt-of range of orchestral colours.
  • Having succeeded his father as organist in Lyons, Widor, at the age of only 26, was appointed to the prestigious post of organist at Saint-Sulpice, Paris, where he remained for an astonishing 64 years.
  • It was at the Saint-Sulpice that he recorded his famous Toccata, at the age of 88.
  • His Toccata provided the model for a string of other spectacular French organ toccatas.
  • Essentially a musical conservative, he ignored the revolutionary works of his French contemporaries Debussy and Ravel, and survived as a fossil from the 19th century until his death in 1937 at the age of 93.


Top Widor Pieces