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The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary since the brass version of Widor’s Symphony No 5 in F minor was recorded by English Brass Ensemble at Gateway Studios, Kingston Polytechnic (now University) music department. At the time it was quite a feat of engineering  (and stamina) as all the brass parts for the symphony were recorded by six players and mutitracked by our excellent producer, Colin Sheen

Gateway Studios (now Visconti Studios)

The players performing on the recording were:

Paul Archibald & Richard Martin (trumpets), James Handy (horn), David Whitson (trombone), Roger Williams (bass trombone), James Gourlay (euphonium, tuba), John Scott (organ)

The recording initially was released by ASV records but dropped from the catalogue some years later when ASV were taken over by Sanctuary Record Group. So for the last 20 years the recording has been dormant apart from a few stragglers available on Amazon and Ebay. For its 30th anniversary it seemed appropriate, therefore, to bring it back to life courtesy of Soundcloud.

Original CD cover

Chosing keyboard music to arrange for brass can be challenging but in the case of Widor’s Symphony No 5 it seemed to be an ideal work. The general absence of contrapuntal writing and the specific registrations laid out by the composer in the organ original certainly suggest that he viewed the tonal colours of the organ as he might have done an orchestra

Charles-Marie Widor

The symphony is in five movements: the first opens with a lively main theme leading to three variations. The development of the central section eventually culminates in a monumental restatement of the first theme on full brass. The second movement is really a simple intermezzo. In the third movement the tubas maintain a restless ostinato figure eventually moving aside to allow a calm ending to the movement. The fourth movement is surely intended as a ‘calm before the storm’ and it’s quiet, restful pace sets off brilliantly the virtuosic and brilliant writing of the Toccata.

You can listen to the recording on Soundcloud here:

The theme running through the original CD recording was ‘ Toccata’ and also featured arrangements of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor and Elgar’s Severn Suite, a movement of which is also entitled Toccata. The Bach and Elgar  recordings will be uploaded to Soundcloud during 2020.