Music Review: PAUL JACOBS, ORGAN (Six Trio Sonatas of J.S. Bach at Disney Hall)

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by Emilio Cuenca on May 2, 2023

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


Courtesy of the LA Phil, the awesome organist Paul Jacobs came to Disney Hall on April 16 to delight us with a most exquisite rendition of the famous Six Trio Sonatas of J.S. Bach, BWV525-530. With a charming sense of humor, he addressed the audience with his vast knowledge, peaking our interest for what was to come. The organ console was positioned close to the audience near the front of the stage, creating the feel of an intimate recital — personal yet grand and majestic. His playing was thoughtful and true to the music: He added minimal, tasteful ornamentations while employing conventional articulations, and yet Mr. Jacobs was extraordinarily expressive. This wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll trio sonatas, but more subdued and all about the music. He let the music speak for itself, achieving a pure display of Bach’s genius. Besides his explorative and adventurous timbral changes for each movement, his beautiful dynamics took us on a tour of designer Manuel Rosales’s Hurricane Mama (aka “French Fries”), Disney Hall’s ten-octave beautifully lit pipe organ, one of the world’s greatest instruments.

Watching the blowing, bellowing majesty of that behemoth’s wood shutters swinging open and shut to amplify sound added an awesome visual component. I also heard notes from the organ that I never knew were there. He activated the Zimbelstern stop bell on the last movement of the G major sonata, his final piece, which emphasized how heavenly this music is. As an encore he chose to go full impact with the Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543 (“Since you can only follow Bach with more Bach,” he joked), during which he no longer held back. His personal flare wowed us with a daring and epic accelerando towards the finale, adding extra bass stops leading up to the foot solo. It was at this point that Jacobs allowed us to truly get the organ’s magnificent power, an act which took down the house. I loved that he was willing to give up some control to provide us with a true out of body experience only possible with the organ. When he took out all the stops, we rumbled to the core. This exciting, magical and sublime concert changed my perception of live vs. recorded music; for the first time in my life music is feeling more human and inviting. I am beginning to relate more to the human performers and feel much less separation towards them. I think this is why I also got so emotional. We died and were reborn.

On May 6, 2023, Mr. Jacobs — from Washington, Pennsylvania — is offering the same concert for free courtesy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Tickets available at Phil Orch.

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