“Paul Jacobs, a grand New York institution…”

–James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, Feb 18, 2018


Christina Wilton


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.

Critical praise for Mr. Jacobs is nothing less than astonishing:

 “[Nothing was missing] in soloist Paul Jacobs’ magisterial playing of the organ, which built to a thrilling roar of low pedal sonority in the final pages that must have set off every seismograph in the state.”
—John Von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2018

“[If] anything pushed Saturday over the top, near the ‘ecstatic’ realm, it was the presence at night’s end of Organist Paul Jacobs…the virtuoso held the house in the palm of his hand.”
—Zachary Lewis, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 30, 2018

“An obliterating performance by one of the major musicians of our time.”
—Alex Ross, The New Yorker, December 15, 2014

“Paul Jacobs is one of the great living virtuosos.”
—Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, October 2, 2014

“America’s leading organ performer”
—E.H.B, The Economist, November 1, 2013

During the 2018-19 season, Mr. Jacobs continues to expand both his repertoire and international reach. He will perform the world premiere of John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach? for organ and orchestra with the Minnesota Orchestra under conductor Osmo Vänskä in October 2018. November will take Mr. Jacobs to Switzerland, where he performs Barber’s Toccata Festiva with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan. This season he also deepens his long-standing collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra as soloist in the American premiere of Austrian composer Bernd Richard Deutsch’s Okeanos for organ and orchestra in March 2019. Additional orchestral engagements include performances with the Phoenix Symphony and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Jacobs will appear in recital under the auspices of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall and the  American Guild of Organists at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.  Mr. Jacobs continues as Director of the Oregon Bach Festival Organ Institute, a position he assumed in the summer of 2014.

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.  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 frequently performs as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Edmonston 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.
He has given the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and, with the Toledo Symphony, has performed Michael Dougherty’s Once Upon a Castle, a work he recorded in 2015 with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra which was released by Naxos in September 2016, and awarded three Grammys, including Best Classical Compendium. 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:

Seated at the console was the organist Paul Jacobs, a virtuoso of dazzling technical acumen, who anchored this recital of devotional music as part of the Lincoln Center White Light Festival. […]Mr. Jacobs showed off his mastery in a handful of solo selections by Bach, Reger, Charles-Marie Widor and Nadia Boulanger, Lili’s sister. In Reger’s Toccata and Fugue, he built up a wonderfully organic crescendo in which the music expanded in all dimensions — brightness, clarity and volume — until it filled the room with a pulsating, radiant cloud of sound.   
- November 3, 2015, The New York Times

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.