PROM 21: OLIVIER LATRY | BBC Proms 2019

Congregating together at eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning, to listen to the organ… but it’s not a church service, it’s another Prom! The Royal Albert Hall’s 9,999-pipe organ, nicknamed “The Voice of Jupiter”, was graced by French organist Olivier Latry, one of only three titulaires des grands orgues at the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.

Latry is renowned throughout the world for his improvisations. Marking this year’s 150th anniversary of the death of Berlioz, Latry closed his 75-minute recital with a 10-minute improvisation on the “Hungarian March” from The Damnation of Faust and “Un bal” from the Symphonie fantastique.

Unbelievably impressive, it didn’t sound like an improvisation at all, and Latry was able to make use of the full range of sounds on offer, switching effortlessly between them, sometimes mid-phrase. Latry rounded off with a series of fast-paced, deafening chordal blasts, in alluring, clashing harmonies, giving way to a light, carousel-like floral finish.

That most cliché of organ pieces, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, also made a welcome appearance, in a strangely understated, effortless-sounding performance. The longest piece on the varied programme was Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on the theme B-A-C-H, which gave Latry a chance to show off his virtuosic abilities. Latry is a Messiaen specialist, but didn’t play any Messiaen, and the programme could have benefited from something more modern and dissonant amongst the likeable tunes. But all in all, a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

1,350 £6 Promming tickets are available on the day for every performance.

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