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Reviews: Midnight at Notre-Dame - Olivier Latry

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Reviews: 2

Review by akiralx August 31, 2004 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
'An extraordinary sonic experience' says DG, and right they are. Not sure how many organ multi-channel SACDs there are out there, but this is the first one I've heard.

It really is a wonderful sound, transforming my listening room into the interior of Notre-Dame, sonically at least! I particularly like the skilful use of the rears, providing the cathedral's ambience and acoustic 'overhang' - which you hear most impressively at the end of the fabulous Berlioz Hungarian March, passing almost overhead as the reverberation slowly decays. Elsewhere the clarity of the various organ stops is wonderful, creating a panoply of sound that is truly thrilling.

The Bach pieces come across beautifully, as does the Liszt transcription of the Pilgrims' Chorus from Wagner's Tannhauser (which is fairly gentle and atmospheric).

However I'm not sure the two 20th century pieces (both under 5 minutes in length) really work: the famous Rachmaninov piano Prelude op.3 No.2 starts atmospherically (although at a much slower tempo so that it sounds like a different work really), but during the cataclysmic central passage the clarity of the piano is lost in a blaze of sound - although it does sound impressive.

Similarly I'm not sure Guillou's transcription of Prokofiev's Toccata was worth doing at all, as the motoric style loses some point on the organ with its uniformity of dynamics, and the composer's jarring intervals sound bizarre in the instrument's ecclesiastical context.

The disc's 61 minute playing time is concluded with by far the longest work, a lovely transcription of the famous Chaconne from Bach's Solo Violin Partitia BWV 1004 which works up to a breathtaking climax at the coda.

I recommend this release wholeheartedly, even if (like me) you are not an organ fan: many of the works are well known, and the disc could become your favourite demonstration SACD!

Four stars for performance, only because of the two modern works, but Latry's playing throughout the disc is amazing, so maybe I'm being too harsh. Five stars for the sonics, which are simply incredible.

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Review by sacd-fan January 31, 2012 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Olivier Latry is one of the celebrity organists of our time. Famous for his interpretations of French romantic organ pieces and a very inventive improvisator. His concerts are mostly sold out. Therefore it is very astonishing, that Olivier Latry has not made too many recordings so far. One of the most known is that one. The programme is a wide mixture of transcriptions. Those can be done by just playing the main theme of the original music together with some chords, or – like Olivier Latry does here – the original pieces can be rearranged to meet the characteristics of the organ. Especially former solo piano pieces like the Prokofiev or the Rachmaninov gain so much more depth.

The organ on this recording is no pure historic instrument. The French romantic Cavaillé-Coll organ of Notre Dame Paris received some contemporary modifications during the last 30 years. But there is a lot of romantic character left, which makes it a perfect instrument for Olivier Latry. Well, indeed he is titulaire (main organist) of Notre Dame.
Here he literally shows how much he likes his instrument.

This all sounds to be a good basis for the recording. The first walktrough in different modes (CD, SACD 2CH, Multichannel) shows impressive pieces and interpretation, just what you expect of Olivier Latry.
But when listening to the tracks in more detail, it turned out, that this recording lacks transparent sound and also the feeling of “room”. Sometimes it sounds a little damped – similar like the effect if you put cotton plug in your ears.
These effects are not too bad to make it a “no-go-recording” it is still a solid work, but other SACD show what is possible - Sorry Deutsche Grammophon.

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