The 19th-century piano repertoire is replete with works that exploit all that instrument's capabilities for power and rhythmic energy as well as lyricism and delicacy. Coleman Blumfield, Washington resident and one-time student of Vladimir Horowitz, drew entirely from that period for his recital last night in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.
In sheer brilliance and technical display, Blumfield leaves most of his competition far behind. In other areas, his performance left an overall impression that was rather uneven.
The first half of the recital held much promise--Schumann's "Blumenstuck" and Mendelssohn's "Variations serieuses" followed by Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." But the Mussorgsky suffered from an abundance of force and insensitivity to tone color, and Mendelssohn's finest solo piano work demands far more feeling and attention to phrasing and structural logic than was heard in this performance.
Blumfield was at his best after intermission, in Chopin's Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4, and Polonaise, Op. 44. The mazurka's delicately shaped line and ambiguous harmonies were perfectly balanced, while the performer's robust approach to the polonaise brought out an appropriate nationalistic character. Two Chopin nocturnes, Op. 27, No. 1, and Op. 9, No. 3, lacked expressive balance, however, due to an exaggeration of contrast in the middle sections.
Much the same could be said of Liszt's "Sonetto 104 del Petrarca," but his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 was better suited to Blumfield's prodigious talent and brought the recital to a fiery conclusion.