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Grammy-Award Winning Organist Paul Jacobs Continues to Blaze Path as Soloist with Numerous U.S. Orchestras in 2018-2019 Season

August 20, 2018 | By Allison Abbott
Publicity Associate, Hemsing Associates

World Premieres “What Do We Make of Bach?” by John Harbison with Minnesota Orchestra October 2018

& Performs American Premiere of Austrian Composer Bernd Richard Deutsch’s “Okeanos”

With Cleveland Orchestra March 2019


The internationally celebrated American organist Paul Jacobs, who has performed in all fifty states, expands the repertoire for organ and orchestra still further during the 2018-2019 season.

In October 2018, Mr. Jacobs is slated to unveil Pulitzer-Prize winning composer John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach? for organ and orchestra in its world premiere with the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vänskä. The work has been commissioned by the orchestra and the University of Minnesota at Northrop to celebrate the restoration of Northrop’s prized organ and further the orchestra’s season-long exploration of American music. Asked to give some insight into his new work, the composer, whose earliest exposure to music was to the cantatas of Bach, explained:

The orchestra is given the task of establishing the premise, and the organ part introduces an idea of the voice of the old German master speaking in modern terms. So that the larger continuity is the responsibility of the orchestra and commentary is in the hands of the organist.  The organ part consists of both the strangest, most bizarre elements of the piece as well as those that are most rooted in tradition.  The cadenzas make the gesture of evolving very much from the old Lutheran roots.

 Mr. Harbison describes the central role of the organ:

A high degree of precision, coupled with tremendous personality is what I hear in Paul Jacobs’s playing. I have always been fascinated by tones that cannot be modulated once struck – such as with the harpsichord or the organ. The way the music comes through the organ is an issue of timing and pacing and spacing – that is the primary way the music is communicated. To me, this is always the determining factor in the player. Jacobs knows exactly how to be the architect of the piece’s structure.  And, in keeping with the tradition of Bach, I leave the choice of registration entirely up to him.

After his engagement with the Minnesota Orchestra, Mr. Jacobs travels to Wisconsin to give an All-Bach program in recital presented by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. November 2018 brings Mr. Jacobs to Switzerland for his debut with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, where he will perform Barber’s Toccata Festiva under the baton of conductor James Gaffigan. He last performed in Lucerne in 2010 at the celebrated Lucerne Festival, as soloist in Copland’s Organ Symphony with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas. Also this autumn, Mr. Jacobs will appear as soloist in Barber’s Toccata Festiva at the opening night performance of the Phoenix Symphony and conductor Tito Muñoz.

Mr. Jacobs will also deepen his long-standing collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra this spring, appearing as soloist in the American premiere of Austrian composer Bernd Richard Deutsch’s Okeanos for organ and orchestra in March 2019. In reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra’s “Divine Ecstasy” program, Zachary Lewis of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported “the virtuoso held the house in the palm of his hand,” summarizing his performance with: “The word for that? Marvelous” (April 30, 2018).

In January 2019, Mr. Jacobs is slated to perform a solo recital at Saint Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic will feature Mr. Jacobs on its Organ Recital Series at Walt Disney Concert Hall in February 2019. Among his many spring engagements, highlights include performances with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. To conclude his 2018-19 season, Mr. Jacobs will appear in July 2019 in recital under the auspices of the American Guild of Organists at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, CA. 

Mr. Jacobs will continue as Director of the Oregon Bach Festival Organ Institute—a position he assumed in the summer of 2014—for the summer 2019 season, as well serve as instructor and soloist in the European Organ Academy in Leipzig, Germany.



The only organist ever to have won a Grammy Award—in 2011 for Messiaen’s towering “Livre du Saint-Sacrément”— Paul Jacobs combines a probing intellect and extraordinary technical skills with an unusually large repertoire, both old and new. An eloquent champion of his instrument who argues that the organ for too long has been excluded from the mainstream of classical music, Mr. Jacobs is known for his imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence. No other organist alive today is repeatedly invited as soloist to perform with the country’s preeminent orchestras, thus making Mr. Jacobs a pioneer in the movement for the revival of symphonic music featuring the organ.

Mr. Jacobs has transfixed audiences, colleagues, and critics alike with landmark performances of the complete works for solo organ by J.S. Bach and Messiaen, as well as works by a vast array of other composers. Mr. Jacobs made musical history at the age of 23 when he played Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. A fierce advocate of new music, Mr. Jacobs has premiered works by Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus, Christopher Theofanidis, and Christopher Rouse, among others. As a teacher, he has also been a vocal proponent of the redeeming nature of traditional and contemporary classical music.

Marking an important milestone for the development of organ playing in Asia, Mr. Jacobs participated in the 2017 launch of China’s first International Organ Competition—in Shanghai—when he was appointed to serve as president of the competition’s jury.  Mr. Jacobs frequently performs as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, Toledo Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Lexington Philharmonic, and Utah Symphony. His recital engagements have included performances under the aegis of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall, Kennedy Center, Cleveland Orchestra’s Tristan Project, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall, Sacramento, Tampa, Houston, Baylor University, Pittsburgh Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, El Paso Pro Musica, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, and the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica.

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. He has performed the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen in marathon performances throughout North America and 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.

Mr. Jacobs studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, double-majoring with John Weaver for organ and Lionel Party for harpsichord, and at Yale University with Thomas Murray. He joined 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. 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.

For more information, please contact Hemsing Associates at (212) 772 1132 or visit

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