The Contemporary Music Forum, which is in residence at the Corcoran Gallery, is the umbrella organization for a lot of fine musicians in the area, both performers and composers. Last night it was pianist Barbro Dahlman's chance at a solo turn there.
A founding member of the CMF and a rapidly rising star in the world of contemporary piano repertoire, Dahlman assembled the sort of chancy program that only a specialist can get away with.
It began conservatively enough (we're speaking from the context of the dyed-in-the-wool contemporary music buff, remember) with the sturdy vigor of Bartok's "Allegro Barbaro" and Opus 18 Studies, the self-discipline of Webern's Variations, Opus 27, and the self-indulgence of Scriabin's Sonata No. 10.
Dahlman, who is a most disciplined and meticulous pianist, sailed through these, giving the Webern an unexpected touch of opulence, the Bartok a bit of humor and the Criabin enough worldliness to keep it in line.
Everything after intermission was written within the last couple of years.
Jackson Hill's sonata. "Super flumina Babylonis" in four movements, is a cyclic structure of material that returns again and again to the Gregorian melody on that text. The clangor of bells is a dominant element, and, indeed, the whole third movement consists of three repetitions of the bell change ringing system called "plain bob major."
The concert ended with a delightful set of variations on two Christmas carols written for Dahlman by three local composers, Ulf Grahn, Helmut Braunlich and Jeffrey Mumford. Grahn's four went the gamut from sounding like a manic music box to the neo-baroque. Braunlich's contribution, in tone clusters and muted sounds, was serious and short. And Mumford's balletic, abstract treatment brought the evening to a dramatic close.