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Monday, July 8, 2013

Olivier Latry, Trois Siecles d'Orgue a Notre-Dame de Paris

There are few European cathedrals as venerable and iconic as that of Notre-Dame in Paris. From a musical perspective, too, stretching back to the middle ages and the famous school of vocal organum, there are few if any with as rich a history and as important a one. Much music having to do with the critically advanced French organ school originated there, for the obvious reason that there has been a line of organist-composers in residence stretching back many hundreds of years.

The current one, Olivier Latry, has recorded a disk of 300 years of compositions associated with the cathedral, Trois Siecles d'Orgue a Notre-Dame de Paris (Naive 5338). The 300 year period corresponds more-or-less to the age of the modern organ installed there, so there is a one-to-one relationship of music to instrument that makes perfect sense. And the music as a whole shows its stripes as an evolving body of work of a definite consistency in spite of the passing years. In brief there is much in the way of dynamics, color, symphonic drama, and an improvisatory style in part encouraged by the function of the organ in the liturgical service.

As expected the music is recorded on site, gloriously so. We cover much ground from the baroque pomp of Balbastre in his "marche des marseillois et l'air ca ira," Vierne's wondrous "carillon de westminster" with its variations on the very familiar time-denoting theme, to the present day and a boldly sonorous improvisation by Latry himself.

In between there is music that gives us a potent earful of the marvelous instrument and the breathtaking music composed for it.

It will no doubt be manna for all who love the French school, the early-to-modern organ music that forms such a key part of our musical heritage. Maestro Latry is marvelous, the sound is marvelous, the music is marvelous!

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