Heralded as “one of the major musicians of our time” by Alex Ross of The New Yorker and as “America’s leading organ performer” by The Economist, the internationally celebrated organist Paul Jacobs combines a probing intellect and extraordinary technical mastery with an unusually large repertoire, both old and new. An eloquent champion of his instrument, Mr. Jacobs is known for his imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence. He has performed to great critical acclaim on five continents and in each of the fifty United States and is the only organist ever to have won a Grammy Award—in 2011 for Messiaen’s towering “Livre du Saint-Sacrément.”
No other organist is so frequently re-invited as soloist to perform with prestigious orchestras, thus making him a pioneer in the movement for the revival of symphonic music featuring the organ. Mr. Jacobs regularly appears with the Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Nashville Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Toledo Symphony, and Utah Symphony, among others.
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, Bernd Richard Deutsch, John Harbison, 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.
His recital engagements have included performances under the aegis of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center White Light Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica, Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, as well as at the American Guild of Organists.
He has given the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra— co-commissioned by the National Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic—and, with the Toledo Symphony, has performed Michael Daugherty’s Once Upon a Castle, a work he recorded in 2015 with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero which was released by Naxos in September 2016, and awarded three Grammys, including Best Classical Compendium.
Last spring Mr. Jacobs performed Michael Daugherty’s Once Upon a Castle with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of conductor Edward Gardner and with the Kansas City Symphony under the baton of conductor Jason Seber.Cameron Kelsall of Broad Street Review wrote on March 3, 2020:
Linda Holt of BachTrack had this to say on February 29, 2020:
In the fall of 2019, Mr. Jacobs highlighted the organ on the New York concert scene, performing in a three-recital series for solo organ to critical acclaim. The series, entitled “The Great French Organ Tradition”, gave New Yorkers the rare opportunity to hear this master organist on three important New York instruments: on the Holtkamp organ in the Juilliard School’s Paul Recital Hall; the 1933 Aeolian-Skinner “Opus 891” at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin; and St. Ignatius Loyola’s 1993 Mander Organ.
Of his performance of Widor’s Toccata, Jay Nordlinger of The New Criterion wrote on September 19, 2019:
Then Mr. Nordlinger, in The New Criterion “New York Roundup” for the month of October 2019, added:
George Grella, writing for New York Classical Review (September 18, 2019), had this to say:
Additional recitals during the 2019-20 season included appearances under the auspices of the San Francisco Symphony, Chelsea Opera, Furman State University, SUNY Potsdam, Clayton State University, Joyce at Aiken, Dallas’s Highland Park United Methodist Church, and Bethlehem Music Series. Mr. Jacobs continues as Director of the Oregon Bach Festival Organ Institute, a position he assumed in the summer of 2014. A recording of Barber’s Toccata Festiva with the Lucerne Symphony and conductor James Gaffigan is slated for release in spring 2021 on the Harmonia Mundi label.
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. After another successful guest engagement with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall performing both Oquin’s Resilience, for organ and orchestra, and James MacMillan’s A Scotch Bestiary, Mr. Jacobs was invited by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin to tour three major European cities with the Philadelphia Orchestra in May 2018. He played the Oquin work in Brussels, Luxembourg, and in Hamburg’s recently inaugurated Elbphilharmonie.
Mr. Jacobs’ performance in Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival with soprano Christine Brewer received a glowing review from Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim of The New York Times (November 3, 2015):
Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Brewer recorded a CD for Naxos entitled Divine Redeemer, featuring works by Bach, Handel, Franck, Nadia and Lili Boulanger, Puccini, Gounod, and Reger.
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. In addition to his highly esteemed recordings of Messiaen and Daugherty on Naxos, Mr. Jacobs has recorded organ concertos 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. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from Washington and Jefferson College.