Ernst Bacon was born in Chicago on May 26, 1898. He has spent a large part of this century composing music in a variety of forms ranging from symphonies to songs. Last night's program in the National Gallery's American Music Festival offered a rare opportunity not only to hear some of Bacon's works but also to see him in action as a pianist. Despite the approach of his 82nd year, he remains, like him music, full of vigor.

His ability to evoke moods swiftly and surely makes him a particularly effective writer of songs. The second half of the evening was devoted to this genre with bacon at the piano accompanying soprano Helen Boatwright. Her intense conviction and sharp articulation set in forceful relief the bold, flowing lines which Bacon gave to the voice. The piano parts were arrestingly independent, generating a lively textural contrast with the vocal material.

The evening opened with the premiere of a trio for violin, cello and piano written last year. Given a dedicated performance by Dorothy Bales, Corinne Flavin and Allan Sly, the music had a strong elegaic undertone. The other instrumental work was a cycle for violin and piano entitled "Tumbleweeds," a stylish suite in whichh Bacon developed folk-like rhythms and melodies with sprightly sophistication.