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[Herald Interview] Organist Olivier Latry to proudly present French organ music

May 12, 2023 - 18:35 By Park Ga-young
Olivier Latry (Lotte Concert Hall)

Renowned French organist Olivier Latry will bring French organ music to South Korea for his first concert here in six years. While Latry has been to his wife and organist Lee Shin-young’s home country of Korea multiple times on private visits over the past several years, this trip will feature his musical talents at the forefront.

For the concert next week, he has chosen music from Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saens, Cesar Franck and Charles-Marie Widor.

In an e-mail interview earlier this month, he said that he included Franck, Saint-Saens and Widor to the program as part of his sense of responsibility to represent France, “a country with a great tradition of organ playing and composers for organ.”

He explained that the aforementioned three French composers were influenced by both Wagner and Liszt.

“Widor went to Bayreuth for the opening of the Festival in 1876, Franck analyzed all Wagner operas, and used some of the harmonic effects in his own music. Widor and Saint-Saens were very close to Liszt. Saint-Saens (who dedicated his 3rd Symphony to Liszt) made this transcription of the Legende for the organ. So all composers of the program are related, like a big musical family,” Latry said.

When he says it's important for him to be a French music ambassador, it is not just a statement.

The 61-year-old musician has been known for his longstanding association with Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was severely damaged by a fire in April 2019. He has served as one of the titular organists of the famed cathedral since 1985.

He said that when the cathedral reopens, which is scheduled for Dec. 8, 2024, the great organ should be there.

“(The organ) was taken out some months after the fire to be cleaned and restored, and the organ builders are putting it back now. The voicing period will be sooner to the date of the reopening, and of course, we will be involved at that time,” he said.

Latry’s concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on May 16 at Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul.

Ticket prices for the recital range from 30,000-60,000 won.