Organ Superstar: Paul Jacobs cover

Organ Superstar: Paul Jacobs


Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs, a Pacific Symphony favorite, returns to the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ to perform a program of virtuosic organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach — including the ever-popular Toccata and Fugue in D Minor — and Franz Liszt.
Enjoy image magnification on our big screens during the concert for a closer look at the organist!
Videos included in this NoteStream so you can listen before the concert. You'll also meet the new musicians of the Pacific Symphony!
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.

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Organ Superstar: Paul Jacobs


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565

Trio Sonata in C Major, BWV 529




”Arioso” from Cantata, BWV 156 Prelude and Fugue in D Major, BWV 532


Franz Liszt (1811–1886)

Fantasia and Fugue on “Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Undam”

The Pedals and Pipes series is generously sponsored by Valerie and Barry Hon.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685—1750)

Bach’s career was rooted in the organ, both literally and figuratively: in the most important job of his life, as Kapellmeister of Thomaskirche (the Lutheran St. Thomas Church) in Leipzig from 1723 until his death in 1750, he would have performed his duties while seated at the organ, playing his own sacred compositions and providing musical direction for instrumentalists and singers. His compositions for the organ are the cornerstone of the instrument’s repertory.

Musicologists speculate that roughly one-third of his enormous musical output was organ music (about a third of his music is thought to have been lost), and that he was one of the instrument’s greatest players of all time. It was Bach who established for future composers and listeners the organ’s awesome expressive range, and whose compositions for it remain the unreachable standard for later organ music.

Portraits of Bach present an image of middle-aged respectability and seriousness befitting the man whom Nicolas Slonimsky—himself an arbiter of musical judgment—called “the supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music, a master comparable in greatness of stature with Aristotle in philosophy and Leonardo da Vinci in art.”

It’s instructive for us to imagine the sober, statesmanlike Bach when he was 20; already a virtuoso-caliber organist, he was employed as the organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt when the opportunity arose for an extended visit to the town of Lübeck to hear the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude. It was a virtual pilgrimage that has become legendary in the history of organ music.

Some musicologists believe Bach completed the round-trip of some 400 miles through the Harz Mountains on foot despite many practical obstacles. Whatever his mode of transport, it was the first but not the last time that he traveled to study the playing of another master.

At that age, Bach’s single-minded dedication to his art and his appetite for the new made him more like a young techno-geek of the 21st century than an 18th-century European patriarch in a powdered wig. He was fascinated by emerging musical technologies and welcomed change at a time when instruments, music theory and tuning systems were in transition.

For Bach and his contemporary listeners, the organ represented technology taken to an almost unimaginable extreme: in an era before electricity and industrialization, when a music box or a spring-driven automaton was a mechanical marvel, the church organ was the largest and most complex machine to be seen in a lifetime—like a spectacular invention from the future plunked down in the middle of church, enveloping them in sound.

Bach valued every possibility of expressive freedom for every instrument, and was an early adopter of well-tempered tuning, which enabled him to modulate to and from any key. Listening to Bach’s organ music, we quickly become accustomed to its almost miraculous breadth, which turns a single instrument into an orchestra. In the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which remains the single most recognizable organ work ever composed, we hear the instrument at its most sepulchral; in adaptations of his cantatas such as BWV 156, he turns it into a choir; in the Trio Sonata BWV 529, he makes it dance.

Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 played by organist Hans-André Stamm on the Trost-Organ of the Stadtkirche in Waltershausen, Germany.

Video 8:32


Music from a Live Concert in Hedvig Eleonora Church, Stocholm 9 Nov. 2014. Ulf Norberg, organ, Assistant: Ulrik De Geer. Recorded and edited by Anders Söderlund

Video 14:37


Organist Diane Bish plays this incredible piece on the 117 Rank Ruffatti organ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale, FL. This is a very old video.

Video 10:00


Franz Liszt (1811—1886)

The life of Franz Liszt encompassed some fascinating contradictions. Your intrepid annotator likes to remind readers that our modern idea of the rock star—a musician whose live performances provoke fans to riot and throw their underwear onstage—reached full flower with the charismatic Liszt. His public persona was a mix of dazzling virtuosity and sex appeal, but his private side was more introspective, encompassing seriousness of mind and deep religious conviction.

As a former child prodigy, he was one of the few composers to give serious consideration to a young phenom named Camille Saint-Saëns, singling out his virtuosity on the organ, which he called “shattering.” Today we can infer that Liszt’s attraction to the organ was not just a matter of its expressiveness as a keyboard instrument, but also its connection to the church.

In the fantasy and fugue he based on the chorale “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam,” both sides of Liszt’s nature are on display. Despite its Latin title, the work is based on a chorale from a French-language opera—Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le prophète. Like so many of Liszt’s compositions based on themes from operas, it is a showcase for dazzling virtuosity in its original version for organ as well as in later arrangements for solo and duo piano.

Inauguration du grand-orgue Kern de l'auditorium du Conservatoire de la Ville d'Aix-en-Provence, 31 janvier 2015 Ensemble de cuivres du conservatoire Orgue : Brice Montagnoux Direction : Jean-Philippe Dambreville

Video: 31:42


Meet The Artist

2017 Credit: Athena Ortmann

Meet The Artist

The only organist ever to have won a Grammy Award (for Messiaen’s Livre du Saint- Sacrement), Paul Jacobs transfixes audiences, colleagues and critics alike with imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence. Hailed as “one of the major musicians of our time” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, Jacobs has been an important influence in the revival of symphonic works featuring the organ, drawing from his deep knowledge of Western music to enlighten listeners, and is a true innovator in the advocacy of organ repertoire, performing and encouraging the composition of new works that feature the organ.

Jacobs made his mark from a young age with landmark performances of the complete works for solo organ by J.S. Bach and Messiaen, making 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, Jacobs has premiered works by Christopher Rouse, Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus and Christopher Theofanidis, among others. He is a vocal proponent of the redeeming nature of traditional and contemporary classical music in his roles as chair of the organ department at The Juilliard School and director of the Organ Institute at the Oregon Bach Festival.

Jacobs began his 2017–18 season with a concert at the Toledo Museum of Art performing Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ and Percussion with Third Coast Percussion in a centennial celebration of Lou Harrison, followed by Shanghai, China where he is president of the jury of the first Shanghai International Organ Competition, an especially important milestone in the development of organ playing in Asia. He will also be presented in recital at the Oriental Arts Center. He returns twice to the Philadelphia Orchestra, first for Wayne Oquin’s Resilience, which was written for him, and later for James MacMillan’s organ concerto, A Scotch Bestiary.

He also appears twice with the Cleveland Orchestra, in the fall with Giancarlo Guerrero conducting Stephen Paulus’ Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, and returns in the spring for their week-long festival celebrating Tristan und Isolde. He is organ soloist in Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony with the Chicago Symphony and the Utah Symphony, and presents solo recitals in San Francisco at Davies Symphony Hall, in Sacramento, Tampa, Houston, Baylor University and Pittsburgh, among others.

In the 2016–17 season Jacobs played world premiere performances of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto, dedicated to him in 2014, with three commissioning partners, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the National Symphony conducted by Gustavo Gimeno and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson. He appears frequently in New York, and has been presented twice at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, the first time at the inaugural 2010 Festival performing J.S. Bach’s monumental Clavier-Ubung III and the 2015 edition with world-renowned soprano Christine Brewer in a program of their Naxos release, Divine Redeemer.

Jacobs and Brewer also presented their duo program on tour to Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the St. Louis Cathedral- Basilica and Spivey Hall in Atlanta.

With the Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero conducting, he performed and recorded Michael Daugherty’s Once Upon a Castle, included on the Naxos disc of works by Daugherty, Tales of Hemingway, awarded the 2016 Grammy for Best Classical Compendium. In addition to the above, Jacobs is a frequent concerto and recital soloist featuring the concert organs of the San Francisco Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Lexington Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, the Seattle Symphony and the Toledo Symphony.

Prodigiously talented from his earliest years, at 15 young Jacobs was appointed head organist of a parish of 3,500 in his hometown, Washington, Pa. 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 50 United States.

In addition to his recordings of Messiaen and Daugherty on Naxos, 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.

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 and an honorary doctor of music from Washington and Jefferson College in 2017.

Meet Our New Musicians

Meet Our New Musicians

Violinist Jennise Hwang joined Pacific Symphony in October 2017. Originally from Los Angeles, she began her musical training at the Colburn School of Performing Arts. She continued her studies at Northwestern University, earning her bachelors of music.

Hwang received her masters of music at the New England Conservatory. There she performed with Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, the Discovery Ensemble, A Far Cry and collaborated with Daniel B. Romain and Ran Blake. Before joining Pacific Symphony, she was a fellow at the New World Symphony from 2013-17. She engaged in a wide array of artistic and musical collaborations throughout Miami and served as a guest performer and teacher for New World’s exchange program with Colombia’s Academia Filarmonica de Medellin. Recent chamber music engagements include performances with Eighth Blackbird and Nu Deco Ensemble.

Violinist Sooah Kim was born in Seoul, Korea and began playing violin at the age of 6. Kim pursued music studies at Seoul Arts High School where she excelled not only in music performance but academically as well, receiving top honors, advancing to the most prestigious Seoul National University College of Music where she received a full scholarship for her entire years. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, she moved to United States to earn Artist diploma from Colburn Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Robert Lipsett. She has appeared as a soloist with Jamie Laredo and the Colburn Conservatory Orchestra, and invited as a soloist by Pan Pacific Music Festival for Concert in Australia and Young Artist Music Festival Concert in Korea. She also appeared as a soloist to perform Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and the Colburn Zipper Hall. She currently serves as an associate concertmaster of Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and performs with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera.

A recent alumnus of the Yale School of Music, violist Josh Newburger is an avid orchestral and chamber musician. He completed his undergraduate music education as a violin student of Nicholas Kitchen at the New England Conservatory. Upon receipt of a bachelor’s degree in violin performance he enrolled in the master’s degree program at Yale as a viola student of Ettore Causa. Newburger has performed across the United States and Europe with ensembles including Ivan Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. During the 2016-2017 season his quartet, the Béla Quartet, was asked to represent the Yale School of Music in concerts in London and Brevard, N.C. alongside pianist and YSM Dean Robert Blocker. In October of 2017 Newburger joined the viola section of Pacific Symphony. In addition to performing with the Symphony this season, Newburger will be touring extensively throughout Europe and Asia through his ongoing relationships with orchestras abroad.

Kaylet Torrez began music studies at the age of 3 in the publicly funded music program El Sistema in Venezuela, beginning French horn studies at the age of 7. From 2004–14, she was a member of the horn section of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performing in concert halls including the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Albert Hall, the Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre (KKL Hall), Bonn Beethoven Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall. In 2014, she was appointed the principal horn player of the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia. Torrez is currently a Performance Diploma candidate at the Colburn Conservatory of Music.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.