NIU PROFESSOR'S PIANO CONCERTO MAKES IMPRESSIVE DEBUT
Robert C. Marsh, Music Critic, Chicago Sun-Times, July 10, 1981
World premieres are not too common in Chicago than days, still less in the summer season, so the first performance of the Jan Bach piano concerto at the Grant Park bandshell Wednesday night was an event, whatever your reaction to the score. Bach. a professor at Northern Illinois University in
DeKalb, might be called a born-again advocate of traditional music after a decade in which he wrote, and won recognition, for serial works. This concerto was well suited to the outdoors - bright melodic, rhythmic and well-scored. The idiom is conservative. It is a thoroughly American work. If you are looking for echoes of other composers you will find plenty, from Ives to Copland by way of Gershwin. But it is a thoroughly original work, too. Bach is a splendid craftsman.
The ideas, the structure are his own and the music seems to develop along positive and constructive lines from the first bar. The second movement, which begins with a recording of William Byrd's My Sweet Little Darling, is ingeniously written to contrast a series of musical styles.
LISTENING TO THIS performance by Sheldon Shkolnik at the piano and Christopher Keene conducting, and making due allowances for summer rehearsals and the hazards of a hot and sticky night, I felt the work was receiving a forceful account but that all parties might have made it even more forceful if working conditions and the weather had been more favorable. Moreover, I was convinced that the score might well grow on you, that a second hearing would mean more than the first. What I heard was enjoyable, not world shaking, but enjoyable. Every piece of new music needs a first production, and then what it needs is a second. The Jan Bach concerto, particularly since we have a pianist as fine as Shkolnik to play it, deserves a second hearing before too long, preferably indoors.