Six pieces of Scandinavian music had their first Washington performance (including three that were having their U.S. premieres as well) last night, as the Contemporary Music Forum opened its season at the Corcoran Gallery. They covered a stylistic spectrum that ranged from outright romanticism to minimalism, with several pieces that could easily have been mistaken for the work of Americans and one that spoke of its Finnish origins in haunting folk accents.
The most striking works on the program were "Summer Deviations" for flute, string trio and piano by Ulf Grahn of Sweden and Washington -- a fascinating study in contrasts of harmonic and instrumental textures; String Quartet No. 3 by Aulis Sallinen of Finland, which uses strongly characterized folk motifs in harmonies that shift deftly between chromatic and diatonic; and "Pluto t Blanche qu'Azure'e" by Atli Heimir Sveinsson of Iceland -- a programmatic evocation of a summer day on a far-northern island that weaves piano, clarinet and cello into gorgeous textures but lasts a few minutes longer than it should.
Two other works that could profit from shortening are "Ekko av et Ekko" ("Echo of an Echo") for soprano, flute, piano and percussion, by Olav Anton Thommessen of Norway (which involves some fascinating interplay between its four contrasting performers), and the minimalist "Grooving" by Per Norgard of Denmark, a hypnotic sequence of spaced-out notes and sparse chords for solo piano. Length was not at all a problem in the succinct "Close to . . ." for clarinet and piano by Sven-David Sandstrom of Sweden, a slight but engaging dialogue in angular melodies.
All six pieces were performed with loving care and obvious skill.