The Contemporary Music Forum's mission is to showcase the craft of composers. But at its concert Wednesday night at the Corcoran Gallery, cellist Lori Barnet was the real star, bringing much of the evening's music to life with her adroit technique and soaring musicality.
Unfortunately, even Barnet's talent could not lift Margaret Brouwer's "Skyriding" out of mediocrity. The repetitious rising lines were initially relaxing, but they endured long enough to let tedium set in. The players -- flutist David Whiteside, violinist Courtney Orlando, pianist Clinton Adams and Barnet -- didn't mesh as an ensemble until the final section, when the music's inherent energy finally began to lift it off the ground.
Tenor Robert Baker's interpretation of the medieval poem in "Tom O'Bedlams Song" for cello and voice by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett was more a dramatic reading than a song and at times was irritatingly overacted. Without words, Barnet conveyed emotional content more effectively than the singer, executing leaps, runs, slides and tremolos with intensity and elegant tone.
Barnet's only rest of the evening made way for Nicholas Maw's tour de force for solo guitar, "Music of Memory." Devised as variations woven around a theme by Mendelssohn, the piece was an excellent vehicle to show off guitarist Stephen Marchionda's versatile talents. His brilliant technique made for an engrossing performance of this rewarding music.
Though Barnet will still grace concert halls around town and across the country, Wednesday's performance marked her last as a member of CMF. Her driving force will be missed both on and off the stage.
-- Gail Wein