ORCHESTRA OF ILLINOIS CONCLUDES SEASON ON HIGH NOTE
Wynne Delacoma, Music Critic, Chicago Sun-Times, June 6, 1983
The Orchestra of Illinois closed its 1982-83 season on an auspicious note Sunday afternoon in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston.
Not only was the program -- a repeat of performances given Friday and Saturday -- full of impeccable music-making. It also was the world premiere of a horn concerto by Illinois composer Jan Bach and the orchestra's first performance led by Guido Ajmone-Marsan since his appointment as the orchestra's music advisor.
The Bach concerto, conceived for the orchestra's principal french horn player Jonathan Boen, was commissioned by Boen and by Evanstonian Betty Butler in memory of her friend Hal Cyril Skopin, who died in 1978.
Set in three movements, Fantasia, Elegy e Scherzo and Rondo, it is well-crafted, accessible work with dissonances, rhythms and volume levels that will not unduly jangle the nerves. Definable melodies emerge, though they are usually short and wander into unexpected, often fascinating, regions. Jazz elements tinge both the opening and final movements.
Though Boen had few extended solos, he played with a subtle strength and rounded tone that took on a spicy edge when needed. His playing of the longer-lined melody in the elegy section had a plaintive strength.
One element of the concerto, a jam session for Boen and four of the orchestra's french horn players in the final movement, sounded better in theory than it did in the concert hall. The french horns lacked that aggressive, listen-to-me edge so necessary in jazz, and the sense of five horns in animated, spontaneous conversation never materialized.
Throughout the concert the musicians - among the city's finest, many from the Lyric Opera Orchestra - seemed to be playing their hearts out for Ajmone-Marsan. Their playing was relaxed and expressive, but scrupulously attentive to musical detail.