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The Juilliard School Presents Paul Jacobs, on Organ, a Faculty Recital

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Paul Jacobs, Organ
Daniel Saidenberg Faculty Recital Series

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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 14, 2016

Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Chorale-Preludes, Op. 122

Julius Reubke (1834-1858): Sonata in C Minor

Tonight’s Juilliard Faculty Recital, featuring Paul Jacobs on organ, was not only a gripping musical performance, but also a fascinating music education experience. As an educator and curriculum designer, I was truly impressed. Mr. Jacobs addressed the audience to involve us in the listening experience, and even the visual experience. He taught us about the “registrations” (sound and texture) that he implemented into the pipe organ, for the three recital works, pointing out pedals, stops, keyboards, and enclosures. His series of short illustrations made the evening so enthralling, as the packed audience leaned in. I am sure if he invited this audience, who treated him to a standing ovation at the finale, to a master class, they would rush to attend. Mr. Jacobs also introduced each of his three pieces and encore with bits of biographical interest. All three works in tonight’s recital exuded romanticism, poignancy, yearning, and spirited texture. Introducing Julius Reubke, one of Liszt’s favorite students, following the mentor’s visit to Berlin, Mr. Jacobs noted that this composer died at 24 of tuberculosis, and that he was concerned, as he, too, just turned 24, in dry humor. Mr. Jacobs was endearing, as well as historically informative, a winning combination for a teacher.

The Liszt Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” was chosen from opera repertoire, Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, which premiered in 1849, Paris. With fiery, quasi-gypsy ornamentations and flourishes, the piece builds in chordal thrills. As this was the first solo organ concert many had experienced in Paul Hall, and my first, the immediate reaction was the sheer volume and sense of being enveloped in the tonal, wraparound sound. Mr. Jacobs dramatically and fervently used his feet on the busy pedals and rapidly pulled or pushed the stops for his “registration” design. He had explained that Liszt and Brahms leave the entire format for the organ stops up to the performer, and that it takes many hours to plan the maximization of the work’s tonal potential. A plaintive theme of longing serves as an interlude, followed by wavelike thematic phrases that reach higher and higher in key. Tonal fireworks ensue, sweeping across the scale, followed by pulsating, heraldic motifs, that explode in a wild finale. The audience was vocally appreciative.

The four Brahms Chorale-Preludes, Op. 122, Brahms’ final compositions, composed in sadness, after the deaths of many of his friends, including Clara Schumann, were published after his own 1897 passing, in 1902. These Chorale-Preludes could be called the andante interlude of this recital, each sensitive and spiritual, with the first opening like a lullaby. I noted that the themes and tempos were balletic and bucolic. Mr. Jacobs’ timing and presentation was, again, educational, as his use of stops and pedals exquisitely matched the aural markings. His visual presence was literally choreographed, in sync with the organ’s registrations. He perfectly holds his arms in the air, synchronized with each pause.

The Reubke Sonata in C Minor is based on the 94th Psalm. This was one of Reubke’s two renowned works, the other being his Piano Sonata in B-flat Minor. The Sonata for organ is noted to evoke the emotions imbued in the Psalm. Those phrases in the Psalm that I find closely congruent with the Sonata’s dynamics are, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth…”, “…how long shall the ungodly triumph?”, “…the multitude of sorrows that I had in my heart…”, “He shall…destroy them in their own malice”. Sitting in Paul Hall, I noted that the Reubke Sonata seemed filmatic, perhaps film noir. It exudes mystery, majesty, melancholy, and madness. Echoing, sweeping refrains follow scintillating eeriness. Throughout this recital, Mr. Jacobs drew the eye, with his natural performance and delightful demonstrations. An encore of Liszt’s Liebestraum, interpreted for organ, was an additional treat.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at