Of all the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition winners, David Buechner, who captured the top prize in 1984, still seems the most promising when it comes to a solo career. Thus is was only fitting that he should launch this month's Bachauer programs on Temple Square, with a concert Wednesday evening in the Assembly Hall.
To my ears the results were not quite the equal of the really extraordinary recital he presented under these same auspices a year ago. But at its best it came close, and even below that level there were compensations and rewards.A case in point: The Haydn Sonata in E flat major (Hob. XVI:52) that opened the program, which for all its musicality and flair came across as a bit romanticised in spots - almost Haydn by way of Beethoven as it were. But it was hard not to admire the range of color the pianist brought to the writing, or the combined speed and flexibility of the Finale.
By contrast, in the Three Novelettes of Francis Poulenc he seemed at pains to bring out the music's Poulencian quality, as opposed to the alien elements I hear from time to time. Witness the Russian overtones of the second, of which only a little Prokofievian bite managed to seep through, bracketed by the wistful fragrance of the other two, which here were nothing if not French.
And the best? For me that came in Dvorak's Op. 36 Theme With Variations, in which Buechner may have even surpassed his teacher, Rudolf Firkusny. Not only did he find more variety in its pages (sometimes within individual phrases); he also managed to convey a greater sense of the music's stature, lending an added dimension to the early variations in particular.
Thus his playful view of the lighter sections did not obscure their bittersweet quality. Yet even the Brahmsian strength of the later variations emerged within a unified framework, again imaginatively voiced but always firmly controlled.
For the audience, however, I suspect it was his Gershwin that did the trick, here the latter's own improvisations on "That Certain Feeling," "Maybe" and "Looking for a Boy," all delivered with style and panache. Certainly the jazz inflections were not lost, nor was the standing ovation.