The astonishing Paul Jacobs, chair of Juilliard's organ program since 2004, took the newly-restored Alice Tully Hall organ out for a spin Tuesday night as part of the ongoing White Light Festival. The organ, which was part of the hall's original construction in 1969, sits behind the stage wall, which was opened up for Tuesday's performance. With over 4,000 pipes in 85 ranks, it is one of the largest organs in NYC - and the only one that lives in a concert hall.
I last saw Jacobs over three years ago, when he performed Messiaen's mammoth Livre du Saint Sacrament. From memory. If that weren't astonishing enough, he performed Bach's complete organ works in 2000, at the age of 23, in a marathon 18 hour performance. From memory.
So, for the organ's first public hearing since 2006, it wasn't all that surprising that Jacobs chose Bach's Clavier-Ubung III: a massive, two-hour work of preludes and fugues, duets and chorales that alternates between organ and choir (supplied here by the Clarion Choir.) Naturally, Jacobs played it from memory.
The organ, an eclectic tracker organ, can be adjusted to accommodate both the light sound of the 17th and 18th centuries and the huge romantic masterpieces of 19th and 20th century. To my ears, it sounded crisp and clear, if wanting some of the resonance familiar from vaulted stone churches. But, what we heard was what Bach heard. No, better.
It's good to have you back, Tully organ.
More pics on Flickr.