Olivier Latry has been in the forefront of a new generation of French organists, steeped in the instrument's long traditions in Paris, yet innovative in spirit and able to reach new audiences. Latry was born on February 22, 1962, in Boulogne-sur-Mer in far northern France on the English Channel. In 1978 he moved to suburban Paris to study with the influential blind organist Gaston Litaize at the St. Maur-des-Fossés Conservatory and also enrolled in composition classes with the organist Jean-Claude Raynaud. In 1983 Latry was appointed professor of organ at the Catholic Institute of Paris, and he later taught at the Academy of Rheims and, from 1990, as successor to Litaize at St. Maur-des-Fossés. He became professor of organ at the Academy of Paris in 1995.
Latry's activities as a recording artist and concert performer, both as titulaire des grands orgues at Notre-Dame cathedral and on tour, were as important as these academic posts. He became one of very few contemporary organists to achieve popularity with American audiences, making his first tour in the U.S. in 1986 and eventually appearing in more than 40 other countries. Latry's recordings, however, were centered on Paris and its collection of mighty organs. His major-label debut was a six-CD set of Messiaen's complete organ music on Deutsche Grammophon, recorded at Notre-Dame, and he has also recorded Franck and Bach.
Parallel to these mainstream releases, however, has been a sequence of albums that are novel in conception. Latry has recorded contemporary compositions, an album of works for mechanical organ, and, in 2017, Voyages, a collection of transcriptions of orchestral and piano works for organ. That album represented a practice common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when most of the arrangements on the album were made, but one that had fallen almost completely into disuse until Latry's commercially successful release revived it. Latry is also a noted improviser. His composition Salve regina (2007) was based on his own improvisations on the medieval hymn; he performed and recorded the work at Notre-Dame. ~ James Manheim