Pianist Sara Davis Buechner at the National Gallery


Sara Davis Buechner (Yukiko Onley)
March 10

As if to prove that her music-making wasn’t all fireworks and technical wizardry, pianist Sara Davis Buechner opened her program at the National Gallery on Sunday with Mozart’s brief and youthful E-Flat Major Sonata, K 282 in a reading that opened almost languidly, proceeded with beautifully calculated ornamentation and rhythmic elasticity and concluded with cheerful simplicity.

But the Four Salon Pieces by Anton Arensky that followed with “Ionics” whose elusive rhythms played havoc with balance, an Étude whose sheer velocity seemed to defy the laws of physics and a pair of movements from “Pres de la Mer” ended this complacency and served as a sort of bridge to what was to come next.

First there were the three movements of Stravinsky’s “Petruchka” Suite that Buechner roared through with dazzling power and momentum and with the eruption of lightning-like spears of notes and incessant almost orchestral percussion beating under the torrent of the musical commotion. Even with all that was going on, lines emerged clearly and the music never lost its shape. After intermission, there was music by Dana Suesse and George Gershwin, contemporaries and kindred spirits who, when the spirit moved them as it did here, could also revel in deluges of notes. Buechner seemed to revel with them, handling all this with enormous gusto and astonishing accuracy.

But she could also be reflective and, in the midst of all this activity, moments of quiet stood out, in the sultry sophistication of Suesse’s “Night Sky” and, as an encore, in Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” both delivered with calm tenderness.

Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

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