Olivier Latry

Bach to the Future

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Bach to the Future gained considerable publicity from being the last recording made on the 1868 Cavaillé-Coll organ at Notre-Dame cathedral before the devastating fire of 2019. It might just as well, however, have become renowned if there had been no fire: it is one of the most exciting organ releases of recent years. Organist Olivier Latry became titulaire des grands orgues at Notre-Dame in 1985, when he was just 23, but he has lost none of his youthful brashness, indicated perhaps by the album's punning title. Latry explains his ideas in an interesting an readable accompanying note. More than in any other genre of classical music, a performance of an organ work is an interpretation by the player, who shapes its basic textures. Latry takes this idea and develops it, using stops that did not exist in Bach's time. Furthermore, he has familiarized himself with arrangements of Bach's organ works made for other media, including Leopold Stokowski's crowd-pleasing orchestral version of the Toccata and fugue in D minor, BWV 565, and Liszt's version of the Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 542 (presented here as two separate tracks, for Latry is unconvinced that they were meant as a unit). Latry incorporates sonorities of these into his organ performances; sample the blazing Toccata and fugue, a real thrill that, like everything else on the album, is recorded to the hilt. The result is an organ album of almost unprecedented textural breadth and brilliance. Latry has other unusual ideas, such as the organ performance of the six-part ricercar from the Musical Offering, BWV 1079, at the beginning, plunging the listener into a murky world of complexity, and the narrative treatment of the Passacaglia and fugue in C minor, BWV 582. Yet more is there for the listener to discover, all of it part of the story of the great Notre-Dame organ that will, thankfully, be ongoing.

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