Paul Jacobs is slated to unveil 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 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.


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.


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