On Sunday night Friends of Music and the Arts presented an organ concert by Olivier Latry, one of the titular organists at the Cathedral of Norte-Dame. I am really not particularly knowledgeable about organ music, and although I always enjoyed listening to it in a church setting, I have to admit that when I was young I was not always thrilled when George dragged me off to organ concerts. I suppose that, over time, he changed my mind, just as I too broadened his musical horizons, and I now look forward to organ concerts. I was particularly looking forward to hearing Latry, as George and I had heard him play in Paris and I adore his recording of the complete Messiaen organ works. Although I did not expect Messiaen, I figured there would be at least some organ music by French composers and I have learned that my taste, in organ music at least, runs mostly French, with my favorites being Couperin, Messiaen, Alain, Vierne, and Widor.
The concert opened with Couperin's "Offertoire sur les Grande Jeux" from the "Messe des Paroisses". I was not disappointed. The music of Francois Couperin always speaks to my heart, and this piece was beautifully performed and seemingly perfect for the season, as it spoke to me of spring and new birth and life, a perfect piece in a world filled with the birth of new green leaves. The contrapuntal texture of the final movement, gigue-like, reminded me of dancing, a dance of the Holy Spirit if you will, an idea perhaps more familiar to audiences in Couperin's time than those who follow the more extreme of the modern protestant practices.
There were some other lovely pieces by unfamiliar composers, some Bach, about which I feel inadequate to comment, and an improvisation by Latry, very much in the French manner, which was gorgeous, but probably tedious to those who are less appreciative of the French school of organ performance.
Not surprisingly the other pieces that really stuck in my heart were the two pieces by Jehan Alain, the "Litanies" and the "Postlude pour l'office des Complies". Admittedly I have only heard these pieces in recordings by Marie Claire Alain, another great French Organist and sister of the composer. Latry's performance was subtly different to my ears, and this difference was more than just the distinction between a live and a recorded performance. Alain plays the opening movements with a lighter and brighter touch, almost airy, whereas Latry's touch was heavier and slower. I liked the weight he gave the opening and the way its fullness seemed to fill the space. However the final movement, although still faster and more furious, did not quite seem to take on the frenzy I expect of the conclusion of this piece. Overall, I enjoyed it however, and it brought a new appreciation and understanding to the music.
It was the performance of the "Postlude pour l'office des Complies" that I found particularly moving. Again, I found this performance to be quieter and richer than I expected, almost sonorous at first before lifting and lightening. The music seemed to fill the space in a series of ever expanding circles, almost like bubbles, growing out of the sound and encircling and enclosing us all. Bubbles within bubbles. A magical experience.
I will be off for blog break for the rest of the week and will return with a post next Tuesday.