November 2004

Midnight at Notre-Dame: Organ Transcriptions
Bach: Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 29; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Mortify Us Through Your Goodness (trans. Marcel Dupré); Mozart: Adagio and Fugue (trans. Jean Guillou); Wagner: Pilgrim’s Chorus (trans. Franz Liszt); Berlioz: Marche hongroise (trans. Henri Busser); Rachmanioff: Prelude, Op. 3, No. 2 (trans. Louis Vierne); Prokofiev: Toccata (trans. Jean Guillou); Bach: Chaconne (trans. Henri Messerer). Oliver Latry, organ
Deutsche Grammophon 474 8162
Released: 2004

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Transcription and improvisation are part of an organist’s required craft, yet few recordings are solely devoted to either talent. This entertaining disc is made of solely transcriptions of works that are famous in their original formats. It is interesting to study how each can change character when transcribed for the "king of instruments." Marcel Dupré’s Bach pieces remain relatively the same pieces, but Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue takes on a sense of grandeur not found in the original version for strings, and the famous Rachmaninoff Prelude becomes menacing and dark. Oliver Latry plays them all with precision and élan. One can seldom imagine any piece sounding better than it does here.

The SACD and DVD-A catalogs already contain a large number of superb multichannel organ recordings. This one must be added to them. The vast space of the Notre Dame Cathedral is clearly staked out by the five main channels, yet the organ pipes seem very well anchored in the front and detail is abundant. There’s no muddy sound here, just a vastness of space. Advanced resolution allows all of the doublings and overtones to be heard clearly. The deep pedal notes are focused and solid as the proverbial rock, while the upper-register tones have palpable space around them. Congratulations to producer Sid McLauchlan and balance engineer Andrew Wedman. The attractive booklet has good photos of the cathedral, the organ, and Latry, and an interesting discussion of each transcription.