Paul Jacobs, organist

                   

Paul Jacobs, organist
Photo credit: Felix Broede
Click on image to enlarge.



"Brilliant young organist and evangelist for the instrument"
~ The New York Times

"Smooth, sinuous, flowing, tender: Those are not adjectives always applied to organ playing, but they fit when Jacobs is the one doing it."
~ The Washington Post


Listen here to Paulís description of the power of Bach and Messiaen's works (1:08)
Paul Jacobs plays Max Reger and Bach at Juilliard
THE NEW YORK TIMES 
Who Said ‘Massive’ and ‘Foreboding’ Can’t Be Enjoyable?
Paul Jacobs, Organist, Plays Max Reger’s Works at Juilliard

By James R. Oestreich, September 11, 2014

"The program notes might have scared anyone away. Max Reger is 'frequently described as one of the most ‘difficult’ composers in the whole classical canon,' they began, going on to call Reger’s musical language disorienting and complex, his harmonic and textural juxtapositions jarring and his music in general 'something at once massive and foreboding,' all in the first paragraph.
 
This for a most appealing evening of works by Reger and Bach, performed by Paul Jacobs on the Holtkamp pipe organ in Paul Hall at the Juilliard School on Wednesday. Happily, Mr. Jacobs, a personable speaker as well as performer, offered his own take on Reger from the stage, calling him a composer 'near and dear to my heart.' Then he showed why.
 
"It was time well spent. There really were moments when the sound turned magical amid the many when it roared.
 
The audience — by now Reger lovers all, it seemed — responded with a clamorous ovation. 'That was intense,' Mr. Jacobs allowed, seeming surprised himself by just how intense. So he offered what he called a little fugue as an encore, Bach’s A minor (from BWV 543): little only by comparison and wonderfully played."

 

Paul Jacobs talks about Bach and the Pipe Organ

Watch Paul Jacobs perform Reger's Phantasie über B-A-C-H, Op. 46, and discuss Bach and the Pipe Organ in this beautiful video from WQXR

 

(September 2014)

Paul Jacobs at the Oregon Bach Festival

After a brilliantly received 2013 debut at the Oregon Bach Festival, it was clear that organist Paul Jacobs and the OBF were a great fit -- so this year he is back, as both a performer and as the director of the newly minted OBF Organ Institute.

The Institute offers week long immersion in the music of Bach through specialized seminars, master classes, and performance. 

In addition to leading the Organ Institute, Jacobs is featured in a range of performances, including: 

  • June 27  A joint recital with trumpeter Paul Few
  • June 30  A solo recital of Mozart, Mendelssohn and John Stanley, with a special Q&A with Paul beforehand
  • July 5 An Organ Institute group recital
  • July 8 A solo recital in Portland

Fall 2014 highlights include performances of the Guilmant Organ Symphony No. 2 with Bill Eddins and the Edmonton Symphony (a season opener), and Guilmant Organ Symphony No. 1 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra as part of a special All-Organ week at the Kimmel Center. 

Jacobs also returns to the Pacific Symphony for "Cathedrals of Sound," a program of Respighi, Duruflé and Gregorian Chant, and makes his debut with the National Symphony, playing the Poulenc Organ Symphony.  

Catch up even more with Jacobs -- and learn about his extraordinary ideas about music and its place in culture -- in an excellent profile from the Yale Alumni Magazine, "The radical virtuoso: Organist Paul Jacobs wants to change the way you spend your time."

(June 2014)

Paul Jacobs: Recitals and Saint-Saëns with the Chicago Symphony

This month organist Paul Jacobs has had a string of high-profile recitals, presented by the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center; by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall, and this weekend by the Toledo Symphony.    

"More expressive moments, the real high points of this recital, came in the surprising middle selections, beginning with a bittersweet reading of Nadia Boulanger’s F minor prelude. Marcel Duruflé’s shadowy Suite, Op. 5, was shot through with gloom in the plodding theme of the first movement, lush registrations in the slow movement, and a tour de force of the hands in the third-movement toccata, with a pleasing hint of the fandango." -- The Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2014

While in San Francisco, he took some time to speak with Sean Martinfield for the Huffington Post, read the fascinating interview here

Next month, Jacobs returns to the Chicago Symphony for the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, led by Charles Dutoit.  As a special offering, he will perform a pre-concert recital  on March 5,6,7 and 8. Learn more about the engagement here

Looking forward, Jacobs will return to the Oregon Bach Festival this summer for three recitals, and to assume his newly created position as director of the OBF Organ Institute.  The Institute, in its premiere season, offers organists a course of study allowing them to be immersed in the music of Bach, and to explore technique and interpretation through specialized seminars. 

(February 2014)

PAUL JACOBS: American Mavericks and more

The end of 2012 saw organist PAUL JACOBS moving forward at full steam -- in November he played recitals in Milwaukee and San Antonio, and he joined Houston's River Oaks Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Alexandre Guilmant's Symphony No. 1 for Organ and Orchestra.  (Check out this CultureMap Houston interview -- which aptly refers to Jacobs as "the Michael Phelps of organ" -- to learn more about the Guilmant.) 

In December Jacobs joined the New World Symphony for the Lou Harrison Concerto for Organ and Percussion Orchestra.  It was fitting that he play the work in the year's final month, as it "played" a major part in his 2012 -- he performed the Harrison in San Francisco, Ann Arbor and at Carnegie Hall with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for American Mavericks.  The performances won praise throughout the season, including a nod from Zachary Woolfe in The New York Times as one of the best performances of 2012, and have recently been released as a live album by SFS Media (rated a 10/10 by AmericanClassics.com and named one of the best recordings of the year by the San Jose Mercury News)  

Upcoming concerts include recitals for the Seattle Symphony; the Edmonton Recital Society; both the 
Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 and a world premiere from Stephen Paulus with Phoenix Symphony; a return to the Pacific Symphony for performances of the Saint-Saens and a solo recital of Parisian music; plus performances of J.S. Bach's Clavier-Übung Book III with choir hosted by the San Francisco Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony.  Be sure to visit Paul's excellent website to learn more about his schedule: www.pauljacobsorgan.com

(January 2013)

Paul Jacobs, Michael Tilson Thomas, and the San Francisco Symphony: American Mavericks

Today the San Francisco Symphony's in-house label, SFS Media, releases American Mavericks, a hybrid SACD recording featuring rarely recorded works by three American composers, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison and Edgard Varèse. 

Grammy-award winning organist PAUL JACOBS is featured as a soloist on the album, performing Harrison's Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra.  This recording is drawn from last season's acclaimed American Mavericks tour, which saw Jacobs, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony perform in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and in New York at Carnegie Hall.  American Mavericks is Jacobs' second recording with Tilson Thomas and the SFS; his first was Copland's Organ Symphony, released in 2011. 

This week American Mavericks is WQXR/Q2's Album of the Week; you can stream the full album here

Jacobs plays the Harrison Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra next month in Miami with the New World Symphony, and performs in Texas this week, playing a Tuesday Musical Club recital in San Antonio tonight, and Felix-Alexandre Guilmant’s Symphony No. 1 for Organ and Orchestra with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra this weekend in Houston.

Listen here to a recent Texas Public Radio interview with Jacobs about his San Antonio recital program.

(November 2012)

Colbert Dispatches: Paul Jacobs

On October 23, Juilliard School organists -- under the leadership of Organ Department Chair, PAUL JACOBS --  played works by Juilliard composers, including five world premieres and two New York premieres.  

Speaking of PAUL JACOBS, click here to learn about his new recording of Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, part of last year's wildly popular American Mavericks festival.

(October 2012)

Paul Jacobs at Westminster Cathedral

After a successful season filled with American recital dates, a tour with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, and world premieres of works by Michael Daugherty and Mason Bates, organist Paul Jacobs performed in London for the first time on July 25, at Westminster Cathedral as part of the Grand Organ Festival 2012. For the concert, Jacobs was delighted to play works by Elgar, Bach, Boulanger, Demessieux, and Wayne Oquin.


The evening began with Edward Elgar's Sonata in G Major, Op. 28. Written in a frenzy of inspiration in 1895, this substantial but little-known large-scale work requires the organist to function almost as the conductor of a large orchestra, commanding a vast tonal palette and wide range of expression from the instrument's thousands of pipes. Jacobs continued with Reverie by composer Wayne Oquin (b. 1977). Reverie was commissioned by Jacobs in 2008 and had received several performances across the United States. He also played Nadia Boulanger's Trois Pieces (1911). The work of an extremely self-critical composer (whose work as a teacher shaped generations of composers in the 20th century)Trois Pieces provided a rare glimpse into Boulanger's creative output. The night concluded with several of the legendary organ virtuoso Jeanne Demessieux's Transcendental Etudes, Op. 5 (1944). Demessieux herself performed in Westminster Cathedral.


* * *

The Grand Organ of Westminster Cathedral is considered by many to be the greatest achievement and crowning glory of Henry Willis III, one of England's finest organ builders. The first state of the organ was dedicated by Marcel Dupré in 1922. In 1932, the organ was completed with specification now 11 stops larger than had originally been intended. Since its inauguration, the instrument has been heard in concerts played by many celebrated organists from around the world including Louis Vierne, Fernando Germani, Jeanne Demessieux, Pierre Cochereau, Jean Langlais, George Thalben-Ball, Ralph Downes, Jean Guillou and others.

From April to December 2012, Westminster Cathedral presents a series of eight concerts under the name Grand Organ Festival. The unique and inspiring atmosphere of this sacred space creates a magnificent setting for organ music, and the position of the great four manual instrument high above the West Door provides the listener without he most direct and comprehensive range of sound and color of any cathedral organ in the country.

An extraordinarily expressive performer and an intensely intelligent musician, Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs is helping the King of Instruments retake its rightful place in classical music. He is known for his marathon performances, which sometimes last up to 18 hours, of the complete works of Bach, Messiaen, and other composers, as well as his presentations of new works and core repertoire. Jacobs was invited to join the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2003, and was named chairman of the organ department in 2004, one of the youngest faculty appointees in the school’s history. He received Juilliard’s prestigious William Schuman Scholar’s Chair in 2007. More information on Paul Jacobs can be found on his website, www.pauljacobsorgan.com

(August 2012)

PAUL JACOBS a true American Maverick

Organist PAUL JACOBS recently opened the much-anticipated American Mavericks festival with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, playing the raucous Lou Harrison Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra:
“In between, there was Harrison’s glorious and witty Organ Concerto, with the great Paul Jacobs as soloist...Jacobs, often acting like a percussionist (among other techniques, he employed a padded bar to depress all the keys of an octave at once), is an outstanding soloist in any repertoire, and he outdid himself in this performance, as did the Symphony’s percussionists, pianist Robin Sutherland, and Marc Shapiro at the celesta."
- Georgia Rowe, SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE, March 9, 2012

This weekend Jacobs joins in for another American Mavericks program, playing composer/DJ Mason Bates' new work, Mass Transmission.  After these concerts, American Mavericks hit the road, heading to Ann Arbor for performances presented by the University Musical Society, and then on to Carnegie Hall, where Jacobs plays both the Harrison and the Bates on March 29.

The Harrison is a bit of an unconventional piece, calling for the organist to employ all sorts of techniques never imagined by Bach.  Watch a video of Paul and MTT discussing the challenges and pleasures of the work here.

Jacobs also shares his thoughts on the Carnegie Hall Blog about what it takes to be an organist -- from the art of getting to know the unique consoles and stops of each instrument, to his passion for sharing the great unknown repertoire of orchestral organ music.
"Taking Lou Harrison's Organ Concerto plus a newly commissioned work by Mason Bates on tour with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony might seem to be a bit of an anomaly. Can you recall the last time a major orchestra carried an organist on tour with them? While this is certainly unusual, the fact that it's occurring at all makes me optimistic for the future of such collaborations. I'm very excited about bringing this music before the public."
Read the full post here.

Other dates on the horizon include a recital presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony as part of their Paris Festival, where he'll play works by Vierne, Duruflé, Boulanger, and Messiaen, and the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony with Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony. 

And, while you're at it, be sure to check out his brand new website, www.pauljacobsorgan.com.

(April 2012)

PAUL JACOBS with the San Francisco Symphony and American Mavericks
After a fall rich with recitals (in New York City, Nashville, Birmingham, Denver and Minneapolis,) organist PAUL JACOBS started off 2012 with recitals for UCLA Live, and presented by the San Francisco Symphony. 
 
“Jacobs is a virtuoso who knows how to balance interpretive insight with bravura showmanship. Each piece he played was full of intriguing ideas, be he bringing a fresh take to a tricky and transparent Trio Sonata by J.S. Bach or splicing an Edward Elgar sonata with the composer‘s familiar Pomp and Circumstance."   - THE PIONEER PRESS, Nov. 13, 2011
 
“The organist offered a probing, reflective and moving take on this work, which offered abundant opportunities for nuanced tonal shadings that revealed both Jacobs‘ artistry and the beauty of this symphonic organ."   - THE DENVER POST, Nov. 6, 2011
 
This month Jacobs returns to the Pacific Symphony and the Segerstrom Concert Hall, for a the world premiere of a new work by Michael Daugherty: The Gospel According to Sister Aimee.Learn more about the program here.
 
And in March Jacobs returns to the San Francisco Symphony (where he last joined MTT and the SFSO for performances of the Copland Organ Symphony, recorded and released by the SFSO's in-house label, SFS Media, which you can preview here) for the acclaimed American Mavericks series.
 
American Mavericks opens on March 8 with Jacobs playing the Lou Harrison Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra atDavies Hall.  The following week, he, MTT and SFSO offer the world premiere of Mason Bates's "Mass Transmission."
 
The festival then travels to Ann Arbor, for the University Musical Society, where Jacobs plays both the Harrison and the Bates, and then on to New York City, where he repeats both works at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall.

Learn more here

(February 2012)

PAUL JACOBS in solo recitals throughout US
This fall, "the leading American organist of his generation,"  PAUL JACOBS has toured the US, playing a series of solo recitals in Nashville, Birmingham (AL), Denver, Minneapolis, and last week in New York City at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Jacobs is a virtuoso who knows how to balance interpretive insight with bravura showmanship. Each piece he played was full of intriguing ideas, be he bringing a fresh take to a tricky and transparent Trio Sonata by J.S. Bach or splicing an Edward Elgar sonata with the composer's familiar 'Pomp and Circumstance.' -- The Pioneer Press, November 13, 2011

“The organist offered a probing, reflective and moving take on this work, which offered abundant opportunities for nuanced tonal shadings that revealed both Jacobs‘ artistry and the beauty of this symphonic organ."   - The Denver Post, November 6, 2011

"Jacobs is an enthusiastic musician, totally immersed in his art, eager to explore all sides of every piece -- and every instrument -- he plays. - Birmingham News, October 23, 2011

"On Sunday in downtown Nashville, Jacobs proved that his fingers and feet were equal to his intellect...he played every note with feeling and technical perfection."   - John Pitcher, Art Now Nashville, September 26, 2011

If you missed these dates, but would be interested in hearing the program, be sure to ask us about the soon-to-be-released DVD version, from a recording taken during the NYC concert.  As we here at Colbert can tell you (see the photos on Facebook,) the recital was a spectacular experience!

On the horizon, Jacobs joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for the American Mavericks project (featuring Lou Harrison's Organ Concerto and a new work by Mason Bates,) with national dates in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and in New York City at Carnegie Hall. (November 2011)

Paul Jacobs Bach's Clavier-Übung III on Pipedreams
This week organist PAUL JACOBS is featured in a national broadcast by American Public Media's Pipedreams. They broadcast his acclaimed November 2010 performance of the complete Bach Clavier-Übung III, and his pre-concert discussion with the Juilliard School's Ara Guzelimian. The performance was presented as part of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, and marked the inuauguration of Alice Tully Hall's newly re-installed Kuhn organ.

The show was chiefly Mr. Jacobs’s, and he rose magnificently to the occasion." - The New York Times, November 17, 2010

Click here for video of Jacobs at the Alice Tully Kuhn organ, on the New York Times site, and here for Lincoln Center's video interview with Paul about the work and the Alice Tully Kuhn organ.

Some of you may have also heard Jacobs speak yesterday morning on Columbia University's WKCR about his GRAMMY award-winning recording of Messiaen's Livre du Saint Sacrement.

In other recording news, Jacobs's performance of the Copland Organ Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (recorded live at the beginning of the season) is now available on a very well-received disc.

Jacobs, Tilson-Thomas and the SFSO re-convene next season for a presentation of American Mavericks, with Jacobs playing the Lou Harrison Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra, both at Davies Hall and at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall in NYC. (April 2011)

PAUL JACOBS first organist to win a solo Grammy

PAUL JACOBS made history on Sunday night when he was awarded the GRAMMY for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) -- it was the first time that a disc of solo organ music has won a Grammy.

"Part of my mission and passion is to build a bridge from the pipe organ to the broader world of music, and it is most encouraging to see this met with such an honor," says Jacobs. "This is not only a good day for me but for the art of organ playing at large." - Feb 15, 2011 PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

Released on September 28, 2010, Jacobs' recording of Messiaen's Livre du Saint Sacrement is in keeping with his advocacy of the composer's works for organ; he has presented 9-hour long marathon performances of Messiaen's organ compositions in cities the United States.  Click here for more on Maessiaen and Paul.

The historic win comes on the heels of the release of Jacobs's third album, a recording of Copland's Organ Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Click here for information about the disc (with the Brant/Ives Concord Symphony) and here for a listening clip of the Copland.

Upcoming hightlights include:

  • Phoenix Symphony this weekend for works by Jongen and Widor
  • Pacific Symphony for a program exploring Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 (Jacobs will play selections from an organ transcription of the work and Bach's St. Anne Fugue; the PSO will play the full work)
  • a recital for Spivey Hall
(February 2011)

PAUL JACOBS & An Extraordinary Autumn

Since the first of September, organist PAUL JACOBS has traveled through an extraordinary range of performances and collaborations:

COPLAND ORGAN SYMPHONY with Michael Tilson Thomas & the San Francisco Symphony SEPTEMBER 3, Davies Hall, pre-tour performance • SEPTEMBER 11, Lucerne Festival • SEPTEMBER 22, 23, 25, 26, Davies Hall subscription week & recording

"With organist Paul Jacobs as the nimble soloist and the orchestra at its robust and delicate best, this disc promises to be a keeper." - SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Sept. 24, 2010

COPLAND ORGAN SYMPHONY & Pre-Concert Recitals with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Chicago Symphony: NOVEMBER 4, 5, 6, Symphony Hall subscription week

"Tilson Thomas led an exuberant performance that merged the formidable organ part -- brilliantly played by Paul Jacobs, in his CSO debut -- with the orchestra's clattery percussion and jabbing brass." - CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Nov. 5, 2010

BACH CLAVIER-ÜBUNG for Lincoln Center's acclaimed WHITE LIGHT FESTIVAL, & first performance on the restored Alice Tully Hall Kuhn Organ: NOVEMBER 16 (lecture/demonstrations Oct 26, Nov 9) * watch video of Paul speaking about the composition and the festival here *

"The show was chiefly Mr. Jacobs's, and he rose magnificently to the occasion." - THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 17, 2010

JANACEK GLAGOLITIC MASS with Pierre Boulez and Chicago Symphony: DECEMBER 2, 3, 4, Symphony Hall subscription week with the CSO Emeritus Conductor

"Paul Jacobs, back just weeks after his CSO debut in Copland's Organ Symphony, brought full-tilt virtuosity to the solo organ fireworks in the penultimate Varhany section." - CHICAGO CLASSICAL REVIEW, Dec. 3, 2010

Oh yes, and did we mention the Grammy nomination? SEPTEMBER 28: Naxos releases Paul's recording of the Messiaen Livre du Saint Sacrement • DECEMBER 1: The disc is nominated for Best Solo Intrumental Performance (without orchestra).

Click here for Paul's personal thoughts on Messiaen, and this specific recording.

ON THE HORIZON:

San Francisco Symphony Recital • Phoenix Symphony • Pacific Symphony • Spivey Hall • Seattle Symphony Recital • and more...

(December 2010)

PAUL JACOBS releases Messiaen disc, plays Copland with San Francisco Symphony

Organist PAUL JACOBS began the month joining Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for a pre-season performance of the Copland Organ Symphony. They then headed to Switzerland for the Lucerne Festival, where they wowed the crowds with with the Copland, before coming back to San Francisco for the official season-opening subscription week and a live recording set for release in early 2011:

"Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony marked their return from a brief European tour on Wednesday night by turning on the microphones and delivering a tremendous rendition of Copland's Organ Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall...With organist Paul Jacobs as the nimble soloist and the orchestra at its robust and delicate best, this disc promises to be a keeper."- JOSHUA KOSMAN, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept, 24, 2010

And in November, Paul Jacobs gives the hotly anticipated inaugural performance of the reinstated Kuhn organ at Alice Tully Hall, as part of Lincoln Center's "White Light Festival". He plays J.S.Bach's rarely-performed Clavier-Übung III - an extraordinary exploration of European sacred music, encompassing motets, complex fugues and aspects of the Lutheran mass - and interspersed with the Clarion Choir's a capella performances of Bach chorales. This work truly embodies "music's transcendent capacity to illuminate our larger interior universe" (White Light Festival brochure).

Jacobs offers other illuminations this month with the September 28 release of his latest recording, Messiaen's Livre du Saint Sacrement for Naxos.  Jacobs also reunites with Tilson Thomas in November, this time at the Chicago Symphony, for both the Copland Organ Symphony and a short solo recital and Q&A, preceding each of the orchestral performances.
(September 2010)

Paul Jacobs with Pacific Symphony, in recital at Walt Disney Hall

Organist PAUL JACOBS joined the Pacific Symphony for the Poulenc Organ Concerto, and topped it off with a glowing account of the Franck "Final in B-Flat Major", in a triumphant return to Segerstrom Hall (where he dedicated the organ last season.) The concert was broadcast live on KUSC, click here to listen to the exquisite Franck Final.

That same weekend Jacobs performed a recital in Walt Disney Hall, presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring a grand program of Reger, Boulanger, Franck and Liszt.

Next week Jacobs plays a recital in Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, performing works by Mendelssohn, Bach, Boulanger, Reger, Franck and Oquin. Upcoming highlights include the Copland Organ Symphony with Michael Tilson-Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, both at Davies Symphony Hall and on tour to the Lucerne Festival. MTT and Jacobs repeat the Organ Symphony in an all-Copland program with the Chicago Symphony in November.

Paul is also currently featured on the Colbert Artists homepage interview; click here to hear him speak about his love for the music of Messiaen and Bach, and why these composers inspired him to present marathon performances of their complete works for organ.

(April 2010)

San Francisco Classical Voice talks with Paul Jacobs
In this interview, Paul Jacobs talks about his solo work with the San Francisco Symphony and discusses the repertoire featured on his Jan. 17, 2010 recital in Davies Symphony Hall. Click here to read the full article. (January 2010)