If you were expecting all sound and fury at Friday evening's Widor Celebration in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, you may have been disappointed. Because just as the storm outside died down quickly, so did the music, with a few exceptions.
Those, I suspect, were what most people came for, beginning with organist's James Drake's forceful projection of the opening Allegro from the sixth of the famed French organ composer's 10 symphonies for that instrument.But just as not all Widor's music was for organ, most of what is tends to be more subdued than the pieces he is best remembered for. Witness the dark-hued reflection of the Adagio from the same symphony, which followed, with Joan Stevens the tasteful but somewhat literal-minded soloist. Or its exuberantly Schumannesque Intermezzo, in which Carl Anderson's imagination was most conspicuously to the fore in the quieter central secton.
As it happened, they were the first of 13 organists who offered excerpts from seven of the symphonies. That included the recessed warmth and controlled feeling Janet Griffin brought to the Andante cantabile from the Fourth Symphony, the uninsistent counterpoint in Jess Anthony's performance of the Choral from the plainsong-inspired "Symphony Romane" and two movements from the Eighth Symphony, Rulon Christiansen's beautifully colored Moderato cantabile and Kenneth Udy's Final, brilliantly propulsive within limits.
Along the way came examples of the non-organ music, first via the Gounod-like devotionalism of the Op. 18 "Tantum Ergo," with Jerold Ottley directing the chorus, then the Romance and Scherzo from the Suite for Flute and Piano, played with stylish fluidity by Lynette Leavitt and David Skouson.
After intermission the volume cranked up again via David Lines' high-power but occasionally rigid exposition of the Marche pontifi-cale from the Symphony No. 1. That was followed by the subdued dynamics and varied reed sounds Paul Barte found in the Andante sostenuto from the "Symphonie Gothique," then the fanciful Humoresque from the Six Duos for Piano and Harmonium, with Don Cook and Russell Sorensen the generally alert but occasionally out-of-balance performers.
The closest anyone came to a complete symphony, however, was in the evening's concluding sequence, four of the five movements from the Symphony No. 5, still the most commonly heard of the 10.
Those were the opening variations, somewhat unevenly spun out by Troy Hunter; David Chamberlain's expertly integrated Andantino quasi allegretto, with its seamless shifts between pedals and manuals; Cook's quietly atmospheric Adagio; and finally the piece for which half the audience must have been present, the world-famous Toccata, with its flashing octaves and thundering pedal points.
Nor did Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott disappoint here, moving things along in procla-matory fashion. Given all that's coming out of the organ, however, I'm afraid the Paul Callaway arrangement for brass and percussion sounds like pretty much what it is, namely an afterthought.