WFMT’s morning man Carl Grapentine always likes to start the broadcast day with a little almanac of what’s going on in the world, past or present. Friday is the birthday of two Frenchmen born only 8 years apart: Charles-Marie Widor (b. 1844) and Léo Delibes (b. 1836). Both men played the organ, though Delibes found his traction in the theater. While his ballets and operas might not be the most famous things going today, Delibes’ Flower duet from Lakmé is huge. You can find recordings with dozens of famous opera singers, or with Charlotte Church, as a ringtone, flutes only, a Flower duet mixed with ocean waves, a classical remix, a synthesizer version etc.
Charles-Marie Widor on the other hand is most famous among fans of organ music. He wrote enormous pieces he called organ symphonies, but never wrote anything touching the popularity of Léo Delibes’ Flower duet.
Widor did outlive Delibes. Delibes died in Paris at the age of 54, while Widor was organist at the Church of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, for nearly 64 years, and married a woman 40 years his junior at the age of 76.