Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Students of the flute spend years of effort and lots of money learning not to do some of the things that Samuel Baron did with cool deliberation Monday at the Corcoran Gallery: clicking the instrument's keys audibly, letting part of their breath be heard as toneless wind rather than carefully modulated flute tone, bending the notes into microtonal dissonance or sliding them up and down the scale so that the audience can't quiet detect where F merges into F-sharp.
On the other hand, students of the flute (unless they have an uncommon natural ability) can spend years of effort and lots of money and still not learn to do some of the things Samuel Baron did on Monday at the Corcoran Gallery: rippling out a quick melody in brilliant, precise cascades of pearly tone, sustaining a slow, meditative mood with long, silver-hued legato lines that seem impossible in an instrument whose power comes from one fragile pair of human lungs, articulating a complex dance movement whose meter changes every bar for four bars in a row before repeating itself.
Baron did all of the above, and a few other things that defy description in a sort of mini-concert - six pieces for unaccompanied flute - that was sandwiched into a longer and wonderfully varied program presented by the Contemporary Music Forum.
Besides his six solo pieces, Baron collaborated with clarinetist Stephen Bates, violinist Helmut Braunlich and pianist Barbro Dahlman in George Rochberg's plainfully eloquent "Contra Mortem et Tempus." His three colleagues presented the pleasantly old-fashioned Largo of Charles Ives. And Bates and Dahlman concluded the evening by becoming dancers as well as musicians with speaker-dancer Mary-Averett Seelye in Robert Lax's poem for choreography, "Lo La."
With the possible exception of the Ives (a nice post-Brahmsian sort of piece), any one of these works could have been the climax of a more ordinary concert.
The six pieces played by Baron alone provided a brief survey (works for unaccompanied flute are necessarily brief) of what has happened to music in this country, from the moddy mysticism of Debussy to that of Hovhaness, the fierce experimentalism of Varese and Berio, the playful atonalism of Riegger and the jovial academicism of Hovhannes. The unusual noises added to the pure flute tone in some places were intented to enlarge the instrument's expensive resources, and darned if they didn't.
Rochberg's quartet, composed in 1965 and strikingly different in style from some of his later, more tonal work, pushes the instruments to a level of expressive intensity comparable to that of a human voice under extreme stress and yearning for words, until the end when one of the players speaks the words of the title and resolves the tension like a final tonic chord in traditional music.
"Lo La" begins with the dancer and two musicians (all in leotards) crouched catatonically on the state in fetal positions, the piano closed and the clarinet producing toneless wind. The development of all three players into manic musical and choreographic life, and their withdrawal into catatonia is an incredibly powerful (and sometimes very funny) experience that makes most "primitive" art seem as stylized as a minute.