Paul Jacobs: Music of Paris Organ Concert

The Kennedy Center was exceptionally full for a Wednesday evening. With so many options it was hard choosing which event to attend. I eventually settled on an organ concert being performed by current Juilliard Organ Professor Paul Jacobs on the little over a year old Casavant Frères organ.

Kennedy Center Organ

This Rubenstein family organ is new to the Kennedy Center and was an exquisite gift from the Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. Boasting about 5,000 pipes, ranging from five-eighths of an inch to thirty-two feet long, this instrument holds its own when it comes to performing on its own or with a full orchestra. Paul Jacobs, however, showcased the organ by itself, allowing the audience to hear exactly what this organ is capable of.

As a Grammy Award Winning organist, Mr. Jacobs has not only made a name for himself within the organ Paul Jacobscommunity, but in music as well. At the age of fifteen he was appointed head organist of a parish of 3,500, and eventually went on to Curtis Institute of Music to double-major in organ and harpsichord, and then to Yale University. He made musical history by performing and eighteen hour marathon of the entire works of J.S. Bach on the 250th anniversary of the composers death.

Based on the theme of “Music from Paris,” Mr. Jacobs opened with Vierne’s “Finale from Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 14” that immediately grabbed the attention of the audience with its magnificent runs and dramatic flourishes. Continuing through the program, the audience was taken on a journey through a lesser known composer Nadia Boulanger, and gently extracted the sweet melodies from “Prelude in F minor.” From there, we continued with Duruflé’s “Suite, Op.5.” This piece begins with a somber tone in the first movement, but finally progresses to a virtuosic Toccata that is spirited and lively. After warming up his audience, Mr. Jacobs chose to bring in some selections from “Livre du Saint Sacrement” by Messiaen. These three short selections showcased exactly how versatile the instrument can be. He finished up with “Sonata No.1 in D minor, Op. 42” by Guilmant. The piece gradually builds into a grand statement of the theme, showcasing the organs range and diversity. After receiving a standing ovation, Mr. Jacobs took of his suit jacket, and proceeded to please the crowd with his own rousing transposition of a Saint-Saëns march. This encouraged a second standing ovation as well as cheers from the audience for a phenomenal performance.

To go and experience this magnificent instrument, the following is a list of upcoming concerts in celebration of this new-found treasure.

*Upcoming Events for the Rubenstein Family Organ*

February 19, 2014: Millennium Stage Performance – Conservatory Project Organ Showcase
April 9, 2014: Millennium Stage Performance
May 21, 2014: Iveta Apkalna Organ Recital – Music of Bach, Escaich, Liszt, Kalējs, and Thalben-Ball
June 5, 2014: Organ Postlude following NSO Concert