Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano, Op.50
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) today is primarily remembered for his organ compositions and as one of the greatest organists of all time. Widor was born in Lyons and studied first studied with his father, also an organist, and then at the Brussels Conservatory. In 1870, upon the recommendation of Charles Gounod and Camille Saint-Saens, he was appointed to the most important position an organist could hold in France, the position of organist at Saint Sulpice Church in Paris. In 1890, he succeeded Cesar Franck as Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatory and many important composers, including, Darius Milhaud, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupre, and Edgar Varese, studied with him. He composed throughout his life in virtually every genre and left a considerable amount of chamber music. The fact that his chamber music along with his other non-organ compositions have been ignored is because of his tower contribution to the organ literature. But Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music states that his chamber music is of the first rank and as good as that of Saint-Saens.
Widor's First Violin Sonata was composed in 1881 and won the prestigious Prix Chartier. The opening movement, despite its marking does not begin in fiery fashion but takes its time gradually building tension which is never completely released before a lyrical and playful second theme makes its appearance. It is only upon the entrance of dramatic third subject that climax is reached. The second movement, Andante, has a hymn-like melody for its main theme. A lyrical second subject is in the form of an aria. The finale, Allegro vivace, is a theme and set of variations. The theme bears a strong resemblance to a Hungarian folk melody. Each of the variations presents the theme from a different angle.
Here is a fine first rate sonata, long out of print, by a French master which is sure to make a strong impression in concert and should not be missed by amateurs as well.