Bach prelude, fugue at St. John

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One might expect to hear a J.S. Bach work in a standard organ recital.

Olivier Latry, an organist at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, will play a Bach prelude and fugue in his Monday, Oct. 14 concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John.

But his program is far from standard. He mixes in music of varied styles and periods. Among other pieces on Latry’s program are the allegro vivace from Charles-Marie Widor’s Fifth Symphony, Camille Saint-Saens’ famous “Danse macabre” and an improvisation that Latry himself wrote.

The idea behind the program is to show the public the diverse music that can be played on the organ, he said.

“I have a tour of six concerts and each program is different, though some pieces I will play in several (venues),” Latry said in a phone interview from Montreal, Canada. “(The choice of music) depends on the organ, on the place. I love that kind of versatility.”

Latry said the organ is an instrument that promotes variety because “you don’t get the same sound with each organ. We have to show all the possibilities of the organ.”

Latry’s improvisation on the program is like a template because each time he plays it it’s completely different than the last time.

Many factors go into making the 10- to 15-minute improvisation unique each time.

“First is the feeling I have before I play. Then there’s the harmonic language, the organ, the people who are there, the atmosphere, and the acoustics are very important,” Latry said.

He gives 75 to 80 concerts a year worldwide so Latry spends more time touring than he does performing at the Notre Dame Cathedral, where at the age of 23 he was named one of its three titular organists.

In that post, Latry said he is required to play there 17 times a year. The experience is so emotional, he said, that “each time feels like the first time.”

Among the awards he’s received was the 2009 International Performer of the Year given by the New York City chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

In 2000, to celebrate Olivier Messiaen as a great 20th-century composer, Latry performed three complete cycles (six recitals each) of Messiaen’s organ music – at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City and at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

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