Nancy Ohlbach is exactly the kind of person you would like to have for a music teacher—kind, poised, articulate and she has a good philosophy on the importance of studying music.
Not to mention, of course, her outstanding musicianship.
On this last cold, rainy Saturday September 25, Kresge Recital Hall was treated to a performance by Ohlbach, who is both an instructor in music and a gifted pianist. A handful of Knox students attended the recital, along with members of the Galesburg community.
Ohlbach was born in Galesburg and received her first formal piano lessons here at the age of four. She has since been based in San Francisco, where she has enjoyed a successful career in music performance and education, but said, “I love being in Galesburg, I love coming back and playing here.”
The recital opened with a memorable, dream-like Mozart piece “Phantasie in C major”, filled with what Ohlbach called “emotional outbursts” that rendered it very “unlike Mozart.” “My husband said he wasn’t sure if people would appreciate it or not, but I just love it so much,” she said.
Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 21” was next on the program, followed by pieces from a noteworthy quartet of composers. Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are all having their bicentennials from 2009-2011 (Schumann’s is this year), and Ohlbach is commemorating this three year span with a recital series at San Francisco City College.
Her performance throughout the recital was dynamic, filled with resounding fortes that were never forceful and soft pianos that didn’t lose their impact. Phrases were masterfully developed and interspersed with thoughtful pauses. It was clear that she found joy in playing her music and played so that those listening could enjoy it too.
“Music is important because it is both an emotional and physical outlet,” she said, and added that it also creates self-discipline. She also stressed the important sense of stability that music creates in the lives of those who study it. “When everything else is going wrong, you still have [your instrument]. The world could be falling apart, but you’d still have music.”
Ohlbach has also performed several piano concertos over the years with Bruce Polay, chair of the Music Deptartment at Knox and conductor of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Orchestra. She has also premiered some of his original works.
When asked if she had a favorite composer, Ohlbach laughed and said, “Whoever I’m playing at the time.”