What a joy to report that Paul Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School in New York City and a renowned concert artist, received a Grammy Award at last night's ceremonies in Los Angeles for his CD of Olivier Messiaen's "Livre du Saint-Sacrement" on the Naxos label.
Mr. Jacobs' award was in the "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra)". Other nominees were:
Chopin: The Nocturnes
Paganini: 24 Caprices
20th Century Harp Sonatas
Sarah Schuster Ericsson
[Dorian Sono Luminus]
It appears that Mr. Jacobs is the first organist to win a Grammy for a solo recording, although E. Power Biggs, the Edward Tarr Brass Ensemble, and Vittorio Negri won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance in 1968 for "Glory Of Gabrieli Vol. II - Canzonas For Brass, Winds, Strings And Organ."
Messiaen's "Livre du Saint-Sacrement" is not for the faint of heart. Composed in 1984, it's a collection of 18 pieces which lasts almost two hours. The score is costly: almost $100.00 US. Most of us will never own it or ever play even parts of it. In a 2008 review in "The Guardian," Andrew Clements wrote that "it should be sampled in smaller quantities to appreciate the power of the best of the organ writing. Bonaventure." To put it in another more personal context: one of my students who performed part of the work has yet to be able to listen to the work in its entirety. Therefore, Mr. Jacobs' achievement seems all the more remarkable.
Paul Jacobs is truly a musical phenomenon: he brings out the best of the organ and its music without resorting to artifice or gimmickry; he is the picture of graciousness and humility; he is idolized by his students at Juilliard and in other places where he is guest clinician; he is a gentleman who radiates class without ever seeming the least bit self-important. Aware that his achievements bring extraordinary recognition to the "King of Instruments," I rejoice in his having won so prestigious an award.
Steve Best in Utica, NY