“An obliterating performance by one of the major musicians of our time,” wrote The New Yorker’s Alex Ross about a recent concert by organist Paul Jacobs. “Paul Jacobs is one of the great living virtuosos,” praised Anne Midgette in the October 2, 2014 edition of The Washington Post, and in an article in The Economist (November 1, 2013) Mr. Jacobs was termed “America’s leading organ performer.” An eloquent champion of his instrument, arguing that the organ for too long has been excluded from the mainstream of classical music, Paul Jacobs is known for his imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence. He has also been an important influence in the revival of symphonic music featuring the organ.
The first and only organist ever to have won a Grammy Award (in 2011 for Messiaen’s towering “Livre du Saint-Sacrement”), Mr. Jacobs combines a probing intellect and extraordinary technical skills with a repertoire that spans the gamut of music written for his instrument, both old and new. He has transfixed audiences, colleagues, and critics with landmark performances of the complete works for solo organ by J.S. Bach and Messiaen, as well as a vast array of other composers. A fierce advocate of new music, he has premiered works by Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus, and Christopher Theofanidis, among others. As a teacher he has also been a vocal proponent of the redeeming nature of traditional and contemporary classical music, which he fears is being diluted in a popular culture.
Mr. Jacobs’s 2015/16 season includes solo appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra (performing Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 conducted by James Levine), Indianapolis Symphony, and the Lexington Philharmonic. Mr. Jacobs will also return to the Nashville Symphony in November 2015 for a series of concerts and live recordings of Michael Daugherty’s Organ Concerto with the Nashville Symphony and Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero. At the Pacific Symphony, Mr. Jacobs curates and performs at a multi-day organ festival in February 2016. Also in the 2015/16 season, Mr. Jacobs and world-renowned dramatic soprano Christine Brewer will tour the program of their upcoming Naxos album “Divine Redeemer,” with appearances at Lincoln Center’s “White Nights” Festival, at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Symphony Hall in San Francisco, St. Louis Cathedral, and Spivey Hall in Atlanta, GA. Furthermore, Mr. Jacobs will perform recitals throughout the United States, including at the Kennedy Center and Denver Cathedral. In summer 2016, Mr. Jacobs will return to the Oregon Bach Festival, where he is the director of the organ institute.
Mr. Jacobs’s performance of the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in October 2014 received a glowing review from Anne Midgette of The Washington Post:
The National Symphony Orchestra offered some breathtaking playing on Wednesday night. Admittedly, it came from a guest soloist. Paul Jacobs is one of the great living virtuosos. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because his instrument is the organ, which is not the most frequently featured instrument in a concert setting. 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. --October 2, 2014
Other highlights in Mr. Jacobs’s 2014-15 included guest soloist performances of Guilmant’s First Organ Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin; a Bach organ marathon in New York led by Mr. Jacobs and his students which was live broadcast on WQXR; an Edmonton Symphony season opener with Guilmant’s Second Organ Symphony; a Pacific Symphony weekend of performances of Duruflé’s Requiem; a performance of Guilmant’s First Symphony with the Phoenix Symphony; recitals in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland (presented by the Cleveland Orchestra), and at Dallas’s Meyerson Symphony Center (presented by the Dallas Symphony); a performance of Messiaen’s “Livre du Saint-Sacrement” at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco (presented by the San Francisco Symphony), and appearances in the United Kingdom to play recitals at Birmingham’s Symphony and Town Halls and at Oxford University.
Prodigiously talented from his earliest years, at 15 young Jacobs was appointed head organist of a parish of 3,500 in his hometown, Washington, Pennsylvania. Mr. Jacobs would go on to make musical history at the age of 23 when he played J.S. Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. He has also performed the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen in marathon performances throughout North America, and recently reached the milestone of having performed in each of the fifty United States. In addition to his recordings of Messiaen and Daugherty on Naxos, Mr. Jacobs has recorded organ concerti by Lou Harrison and Aaron Copland with the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas on the orchestra’s own label, SFS Media.
In addition to his concert and teaching appearances, Mr. Jacobs is a frequent performer at festivals across the world, and has appeared on American Public Media’s Performance Today, Pipedreams, and Saint Paul Sunday, as well as NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC-TV’s World News Tonight, and BBC Radio 3.