When an ensemble doesn't even pretend to appeal to a general public, it has the freedom to program anything it wants to. The Contemporary Music Forum is in this enviable position. Its audiences are small but adventurous. Its programs are diverse and also adventurous.
Last night's concert at the Corcoran Gallery brought together an improbable collection of contemporary pieces, for the most part music in a rather conservative idiom, but pieces whose juxtaposition produced a strangely zany evening of entertainment.
Alan Stout's "Waltz" set the tone -- humor in an intellectual mold.
"Three Hommages" by Helps, piano sketches more or less in the styles of Faure, Rachmaninoff and Ravel, were treated to highly stylized performances by Barbro Dahlman.
On the serious side was an impressive set of songs for soprano and viola by Jane Wilkinson. Entitled "Comparatives," the cycle gives descriptive musical form to five poems about wild animals by the American Indian poet Momaday.
At this point, the lights dimmed and a movie, circa 1924, flickered across the screen: "Entr'Acts" by Rene Clair with music by State, a super spoof. tAs this ended, Dahlman reappeared on the dark stage, candle in hand, for a performance of Bussotti's "Pieces for David Tudor" that is largely improvisatory, more scene than music and quite funny.
Another film, "This Is a Test," with music by Trythall followed, a blend of irresistibly accelerating electronic visual and sound effects.
And finally, the "Barbro" Variations for piano on sundry Christmas carol tunes by sundry composers. All in all, a delightful mishmash.