Paul Jacobs, organist

                   

Paul Jacobs, organist
Photo credit: Jim McNutt
Click on image to enlarge.



"“An obliterating performance by one of the major musicians of our time."
~ The New Yorker

"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 Paul’s description of the power of Bach and Messiaen's works (1:08)

“... An obliterating performance by one of the major musicians of our time.“   - Wall of Sound by Alex Ross, THE NEW YORKER, December 15, 2014

“Paul Jacobs is one of the great living virtuosos... It also may be because he is utterly without artifice: still in his 30s, he projects a cherubic boyishness and freshness. In his NSO debut, he sat at the console of the Rubenstein Family Organ and played with a kind of serenity that belied the intricacy of the registrations with which he pulled a rainbow of sounds out of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in a minor. I have seldom heard an orchestral audience leap to its feet and whoop at a solo organ piece, but the adulation was well deserved.“   - Poulenc Organ Concerto and Bach solo w/ National Symphony, THE WASHINGTON POST, October 2, 2014

“Paul Jacobs, with his unique combination of technical virtuosity of the highest order, musical sophistication, total lack of pretension, and honesty. What more can a performing musician hope for than to serve a composer—a neglected great one—in this way.“   - Recital: Bach & Max Reger at Juilliard, NEW YORK ARTS, September 26, 2014

“Symphony season begins with a thundering organ performance.“   - Guilmant Organ Concerto w/ Edmonton Symphony, EDMONTON JOURNAL, September 21, 2014

“Mr. Jacobs had spoken of Reger’s wit and irony, which came through beautifully in the simple hushed start of the fugue, soon to grow loud, hectic and huge.“   - Recital: Bach & Max Reger at Juilliard, THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 11, 2014

“Three brief selections from Messiaen’s “Livre du Saint Sacrement” showed the particular mastery Jacobs has over this composer’s works.“   - Recital: Music from Paris, Kennedy Center, THE WASHINGTON POST, February 6, 2014

“Jacobs is an honest and straightforward performer. Except for the occasional arm flourish at the end of a piece, he doesn‘t draw attention to his virtuosity, which is entirely unlabored. His interpretive approach is clear and direct, even measured, so that the music appears to unwind of its own accord, by its own power.“   - Recital, Music from Paris, Segerstrom Hall, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, May 6, 2013

“The gently rocking Sicilienne is followed by a Toccata with classic Romantic French organ voicing — a virtuoso finale that gave Jacobs ample opportunity to use his considerable technical and interpretative gifts.“   - Bach, Durufle and Liszt Kauffman Center recital, THE KANSAS CITY STAR, June 16, 2012

"Were Mr. Jacobs 'simply' a prodigious talent who built a top solo career starting with his training in Western Pennsylvania, we would be justly celebrating him.

But in the last 10 years Mr. Jacobs has become more than that. Appointed chairman of the organ department at the Juilliard School in 2004, he is a pipe organ advocate as much as a performer.

That shined in his sold-out performance Sunday. He spoke eloquently about the music he performed, inviting the audience into this world. Mr. Jacobs is the only artist I have ever seen who says, 'We are now going to hear a work,' instead of, 'I am going to play a work for you' or 'you are about to hear a work.' It is almost as if he, too, was eager to listen to the music, as if he is so touched by the muse that he was marveling at the music, and his playing, as we were."  
- Recital for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, May 7, 2012

"The result was an enticing series of shifts between rhetorically elegant simplicity and the fireworks of complexity for its own sake. Jacobs executed the entire package with the utmost composure, not dropping his guard until completing the final étude with its thick web of parallel octaves shared by both manuals and pedals."   - Elgar and Bach concert review, Davies Symphony Hall, THE EXAMINER , January 22, 2012

"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."   - Recital, ST. PAUL 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

"Bach, of course, is at the heart of every organist's repertoire, and Bach is what Jacobs delivered in high fashion. Even in the relatively unceremonial Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, he played with controlled transparency and ornate flourishes, allowing a clear understanding of Bach's genius. An encore, Bach's Fugue in A minor from BWV 543, was more flamboyant, its wildly varying tempo shifts and intense buildup giving it a nearly theatrical feel. Unorthodox, perhaps, but it's the kind of playing that could give Jacobs a unique -- and envied -- spot among his peers."   - Birmingham News, October 23, 2011

"On Sunday in downtown Nashville, Jacobs proved that his fingers and feet were equal to his intellect. His recital included not only the complete Elgar sonata but also American composer Florence Beatrice Price's Suite for Organ along with three substantial Bach works. Jacobs dashed off all of this music from memory, and he played every note with feeling and technical perfection."   - John Pitcher, Art Now Nashville, September 26, 2011

"Conlon persuasively led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with celebrated organist Paul Jacobs through a landscape of startling instrumental colors...Jacobs tackled Janacek's wildly exuberant organ solo with flair and completely from memory."   - Janacek "Glagolitic Mass" James Conlon, Cincinnati Symphony "May Festival", Cinc, May 23, 2011

"The real knockout is the companion piece, Aaron Copland's Organ Symphony, written when he was 23 and banging down the Modernist doors with his jazziness and serious contemplation. The performance, with Paul Jacobs as organist, is brilliant."   - CD Review, Copland Organ Symphony with SFSO, The Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2011

"Between these two contemporary compositions, each of which built upon the past in its own characteristic way, Jacobs programmed two major representatives of the legacy of the organ repertoire...Jacobs performed with a firm hand that honored both the musicianship and the spectacle."   - Recital at Davies Hall, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Examiner, January 31, 2011

"Paul Jacobs dispatched the wild and furious organ solo, well, wildly and furiously."   - Janacek‘s Glagolitic Mass, Pierre Boulez, Chicago Symphony, John von Rhein for Chicago Tribune, December 3, 2010

"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."   - Janacek‘s Glagolitic Mass, Pierre Boulez, Chicago Symphony, Lawrence A. Johnson, Classical Rev, December 3, 2010

"From the majestic opening of the Prelude, Jacobs summoned wonderfully virile and colorful sounds...Cheers and sustained applause greeted Jacob's appearance onstage. It was, pace Horowitz's 1965 Carnegie Hall recital, "an historic return" for the organ at Alice Tully Hall as well as a vivid illustration of Bach's subtitle of "Clavier-Übung III": "For Music Lovers and especially for Connoisseurs of such Work, to refresh their Spirits."   - Bach Clavier-Übung III, Alice Tully Organ Re-inauguration, MusicalAmerica.com, November 19, 2010

"The Lincoln Center event attracted a sell-out crowd, eager to hear virtuoso Paul Jacobs give a rare, complete performance of Bach's Clavier-Übung III...Adding to the work's formidable technical challenges, Mr. Jacobs played it entirely from memory. These pieces require mental clarity, stamina and virtuosity, qualities Mr. Jacobs has in abundance."   - Bach Clavier-Übung III, Alice Tully Organ Re-inauguration, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2010

"The show was chiefly Mr. Jacobs's, and he rose magnificently to the occasion. "   - Bach Clavier-Übung III, Alice Tully Organ Re-inauguration, The New York Times, November 17, 2010

"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."   - Copland Organ Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Chicago Symphony, Chicago Tribune, November 5, 2010

"Mr. Jacobs is not only a monumentally talented and thoughtful musician, he is also a dynamic performer. He understands those things which which are needed to excite and captivate an audience, like the visual aspect of performance. The two screens he had made available gave the audience what they want to see, in particular the pedal work. He understands that the visceral, no matter how superfluous it seems to the experienced concertgoer, is what draws the novice in - especially when one observes the deftness with which he manipulated the console in order to achieve what was ultimately a superlative musical end."   - Kimmel Center Recital, BlogCritics.com, May 17, 2010

"He made the music come alive--particularly through imaginative and frequent shifts in registration--to such an extent that I could scarcely imagine that organ music exists on the periphery of classical-music culture. Secondly, his physical performance at the console--a kind of entrancing choreography of dancing feet and gesturing arms--presented a musician whose artistry is very much connected to the embodied act of playing. Watching Jacobs is a thrilling experience..."   - Recital, Davies Symphony Hall, The San Francisco Examiner, January 21, 2010

"In addition to being a splendidly played musical event, it was there to make a sort of pitch for both the Ruffatti and for organ music in general. To that end, Jacobs made sure to include a range of music, from familiar (a vigorously paced Bach encore) to obscure, and from expansive to intimate. All of it was delivered with elegance, imagination and fervor, and nearly all of it made its mark."   - Recital, Davies Symphony Hall, Joshua Kosman for The San Francisco Chronicle, January 19, 2010

"Impressive as he was for the fluidity of his technique, the flexibility of his phrasing and the astonishing virtuosity of his pedal work, the most memorable aspect of Jacobs's recital was his imaginative and always appropriate choices of registration -- the assignment of specific bits of the score to specific stops, each with its own timbre."   - Recital in San Antonio, INCIDENTAL LIGHT, October 8, 2009

"Mr. Jacobs dispatched the music with rollicking energy and uncanny transparency. His command was undiminished during the subsequent work... That he received a standing ovation was no surprise."   - Bach Trio Sonatas, The Juilliard School, Anthony Tommasini for the New York Times, September 16, 2009

"A really terrific concert...One would have been happy to go back and hear it all again when Jacobs had finished."   - Recital, Anne Midgette for The Washington Post, September 30, 2008

"In some ways a work like the "Livre" is perfect for him: It demands virtuosity but resists showiness. Mr. Jacobs tapped into its otherworldly drama but kept its central purpose - evoking, exploring and celebrating the great spiritual mysteries - fully in focus."   - Messiaen‘s "Livre du Saint Sacrement", The New York Times, October 11, 2007