The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains – Fanwood TIMES
Thursday, March 17, 2011 Page 19

Piano Prodigy Blumer Plays
Concerto with Symphony

Charles Prince, Conductor; Seth Blumer, Pianist
By BARBARA THOMSON
Specially Written for The Westfield leader and The Times

PLAINFIELD – What were you doing in elementary school? If your name is Seth Blumer, you were playing the piano in Carnegie Hall, winning competitions, and playing a concerto with the Plainfield Symphony. This 6th grader performed Bach’s Piano Concerto in d minor (BWV 1052) on Saturday, March 5, at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church playing with excellent technique and musical insight. It is not all that unusual for youngsters to have excellent technical capabilities at early ages – little “prodigies” abound – but there is more to making music than playing the notes.

Young Mr. Blumer plays with the native musical insight that musicians can only be born with – no amount of coaching can substitute for the innate understanding of where a phrase goes.

When you couple that with good technical training, the prodigy becomes a musician, and that is certainly what he is. Seth performed the Bach with energy and finesse and a real sense of purpose and understanding. If you weren’t looking, you would never have known that the performer was only 11- years old. And lest you think that he is too serious for his own good, (he is 11-years old, after all), he played a fun bluesy encore by jazz pianist Joe Utterback. Guess he can still enjoy being a kid!

As an aside, I would like to say that it was good to see a student playing a work of a technical level at which he can excel. Too many teachers give students works, which are too difficult and let them slop through. One will never learn to play with nuance or control if it’s all you can do to just get the notes out. I was glad to see him playing Bach, not attempting Brahms or Rachmaninoff. There will be time for that later, and he will be ready for them when that time comes. He was not playing alone, of course. The Plainfield Symphony, an excellent community orchestra, was an able accompanist, and its players seemed to enjoy making music with their young soloist, who was always attentive to the conductor and the ensemble.

The program opened with Rossini’s familiar overture to the opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie), a cheerful, lively piece, which gives the orchestra plenty to do without being too taxing. The big work came in the second half – Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. This is a challenging piece even for professionals, and was a stretch for a community orchestra. But the point of a community orchestra, after all, is to give good amateurs (along with a few added professionals) a chance to play major works of this type. There were many sections, which came off beautifully, and although I thought the fast tempo of the last movement pushed the envelope a bit, it was full of energy and power. Charles Prince’s conducting was always clear and precise (you would think that would be a given, but it’s not) and he was not afraid to ask his orchestra to play up to their full potential.

Intonation problems did crop up in the difficult places, and there were some balance issues in the ensemble as a whole. Nonetheless, the players and their audience had a wonderful evening, and it was nice to see an enthusiastic full house in attendance. A community orchestra like this serves an important function, and it is wonderful to see that it has the support of its community.