January 17, 2017

Warner Classics releases first organ album recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris

France's premier organist Olivier Latry consecrates the state-of-the-art instrument with his 'Voyages' recital.

Paris’s magnificent new concert hall, the Philharmonie, opened in January 2015, but its monumental organ – which has over 6000 pipes and 91 different stops and weighs more than 25 tonnes – was not inaugurated until early 2016. The resulting album, Voyages, comprises virtuosic showstoppers and famous pieces transcribed for organ and is the first to be recorded on the instrument.

The organist is French-born Olivier Latry, who has long been closely associated with a far older Parisian landmark, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, having held the position of Titular Organist for more than 30 years.

He is also Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire and a celebrated international performer who has appeared in 50 countries across five continents. As the Boston Globe has opined: “No organist comes with more impressive credentials than Olivier Latry,” while The New York Times has described him as “a brilliant instrumentalist” and Gramophone has praised his "mastery of both instrument and repertoire."

Latry believes in exploring a wide variety of music, a philosophy reflected in the enticingly varied programme of this recital, which ranges across three centuries – from Bach to Khachaturian – and a number of musical cultures, featuring music by composers born in Germany, France, Russia, Hungary, Spain and Georgia. The 11 tracks provide a showcase both for Latry’s virtuosic artistry and the wealth of colouristic and expressive possibilities offered by the Philharmonie’s organ: from Wagner’s exalted Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde to Rimsky-Korsakov’s buzzing, dizzy Flight of the Bumble Bee; from Debussy’s mysterious La cathédrale engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral) to Chopin’s pensive Prélude in E minor, Falla’s insistently sensuous Danza ritual del fuego (Ritual Fire Dance) and Saint-Saëns’ grotesque, but irresistible Danse Macabre.

The organ of the Philharmonie was built by the Austrian firm Rieger (which has a history going back to 1845) under the artistic and technical supervision of the French organ expert Michel Garnier. It was conceived as a ‘symphonic’ instrument in the French tradition, emphasising clear, sweet, rounded sonorities and well-blended harmonies, but also capable of spectacular power and brilliance. The largest pipe runs to more than seven metres, while the smallest measures less than a centimetre.

The instrument was inaugurated by the eminent French composer Thierry Escaich, who described it thus: “It is powerful, but also very rounded in tone and highly varied in its range of colour: it is an orchestral organ. It is also very harmonious, with pipes that exude sonic poetry.”

Olivier Latry's Voyages, the first organ recital recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris, will be released late January 2017.