On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, the Jacksonville Symphony will present the world premiere of an original work, Organ Concerto, Op. 41, by award-winning composer Lowell Liebermann, performed by Paul Jacobs, the first organist ever to win a Grammy. This work is sponsored by Brenda and Gene Wolchok.
Conducted by Music Director Courtney Lewis, the opening Florida Blue Classical concert of the 2023-24 season commences by highlighting Ludwig van Beethoven’s masterful musical storytelling in Leonore Overture No. 2. Liebermann’s Organ Concerto is next in the lineup, and the evening concludes with Robert Schumann’s cheerful Second Symphony.
Liebermann is one of America’s most frequently performed and recorded living composers who writes unashamedly for the pleasure of the audience. Liebermann’s grand and thrilling new work for the Jacksonville Symphony harnesses the unique power and color of the organ while drawing on its rich history.
“In terms of composition style, the Organ Concerto is very consistent with the rest of my pieces,” said Liebermann. “I've always seen my works as being part of the Western classical continuum of music. I never intend for my music to be a radical break with what's happened before it. To me, the whole history of music is a very enriching tradition, and my music often makes references to other composers, styles and techniques.”
Liebermann’s Organ Concerto is a large piece in four movements, about a half hour in length. The first movement, titled Chorale-Prelude, is expansively melodic, with references to Baroque music and Johann Sebastian Bach in particular. The second movement is an ironic Dance, mimicking the fast-paced composition of a scherzo. The third movement, Aria, is the emotional core of the piece. This leads, without pause, into the fourth movement, which starts off at one tempo and then gets imperceptibly faster until the exhilarating finale.
“In my music, there usually is no extra-musical inspiration,” Liebermann explains. “It's not about sunsets, political events or things of that sort. It's about the manipulation of the harmonies, the melodies, the musical materials I'm using and the abstract emotions that those evoke in the listener.”
Premiering the Organ Concerto is Paul Jacobs, Grammy Award-winning organist and pioneer in the movement for the revival of symphonic music featuring the organ. An eloquent champion of his instrument, Jacobs is known for his imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence.
The Jacksonville Symphony has embarked on an exciting, multi-year project to premiere original works commissioned from today’s most exciting composers. The 2021-22 Season saw the first of these works with “Trances,” a full symphonic piece by Tarik O’Regan. In this season’s lineup of historic masterpieces, new music makes history of its own with not one but two world premieres with Liebermann’s Organ Concerto this September and composer Courtney Bryan’s original work debuting in spring 2024.
“New music produced by living composers is so important because it keeps classical music relevant, fresh and reflective of contemporary times,” said Lewis. “I cannot wait for our listeners to experience this concerto and discover a new sense of connection with the colossal instrument that it highlights — the historic Bryan Concert Organ.”
For more information on the performance and to purchase tickets, go to Jaxsymphony.org.