January 20, 2017

The new album 'Voyages': a guided tour of the organ of the Philharmonie de Paris

Olivier Latry describes the unique instrument in this unique concert hall, captured on record for the first time.

A note from Olivier Latry, organist of the Philharmonie de Paris and the first to record an album on the concert hall's unique instrument:

"Any visitor entering the great hall of the Philharmonie de Paris for the first time is immediately struck by the beauty of the place, its harmony and lightness, qualities which in no way detract from the overall feeling of space and power emanating from it.

"But then the visitor looks in greater detail and notices several features which consistently call to mind the purpose of the building: isn't that balcony reminiscent of the black lacquered lid of a huge grand piano? Couldn't those pipes arranged on a cloud actually be… an 'organ"?'

"So before even hearing a single note, the visitor has the pleasant impression that 'the whole place is all about music'. There are many subtle references. But everything adds up to making one feel that one is in a temple dedicated to the art of sound. In just a few moments visual delight will combine with auditory delight…

"On this day, the organ is to play. But will these few pipes, arranged so sparingly, really be enough to fill a space of around 30,000 cubic metres? Then suddenly the back of the stage seems to move gently: some shutters open, spreading like the wings of a bird. Gradually a whole unknown, secret world appears, a forest of metal and wood with thousands of 'flutes' and 'trumpets', both vertical and horizontal, as well as strange-looking mechanisms… The instrument's insides are spread out before our eyes; our musical journey can begin.

"This hitherto unimaginable world now on view irresistibly invites exploration. We can make out ladders, footbridges, passageways. It looks as if we could wander around inside, like we would in an ancient building, a church or a castle, in the countryside, in a forest or in the mountains. But this maze, apart from looking alluring, has just one single purpose: to make the surrounding space sing. A space within a space, bonded for all time with the environment in which it is housed, the inherent rapport between the organ which we are about to hear and its surroundings means that it is without a shadow of doubt the soul of the Philharmonie.
"The instrument's palette is extraordinary and the works played on it transcend themselves thanks to its countless sound colours. This applies particularly in the case of transcriptions which require, firstly on the part of the transcriber but on the part of the performer as well, an infinite degree of imagination in choosing registration (the art of switching between organ stops) - between the ephemeral nature of each of the Variations Sérieuses or the frenetic passages from Danse macabre, the hazy sound which Chopin, Fauré and Debussy sought to capture, the flamboyance of Russian composers or the endless crescendos of Liszt or Wagner.
"Like a painter choosing meticulously what shades to use in order best to represent his vision, the organist can blend sounds together so as to merge into the sound world of each composer. So many invitations to travel in time, space and imagination. A fresh look at such familiar works.

May the listener relax and be transported to rediscover universal music illuminated by an instrument with so many attributes."

Olivier Latry's Philharmonie de Paris organ recital album, Voyages, is out 20 January.


Olivier Latry Voyages