The young pianist David Buechner, currently a doctoral candidate at Juilliard, has garnered such an impressive array of awards and distinctions that he is invariably preceded by his reputation. With a program that tested and retested his virtuosic skills, he had little difficulty satisfying the audience's high expectations Saturday afternoon at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
Buechner's calling card is a sure-handed, fluid touch that makes light work of the most difficult passages. The flurry of 16th notes alternating between hands in the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in A Minor, K. 310, were evenly weighted and gracefully spun out; the storming finale of Schubert's "Wanderer" Fantasy, which was known to frazzle its composer because of the extraordinary demands placed on him as pianist, proved not the least bit bothersome. Rhythmic vitality and bold clashes of color more than received their due in the "Fantasy and Toccata" by Martinu and "Bourre'e Fantasque" by Chabrier.
And yet amid all this ease of execution, there was a prevailing sense of aloofness from the music. Facility is fine, as long as the performer feels the notes and doesn't merely dispatch them. Buechner's glibness prevented him from establishing much depth of feeling in the Mozart and Schubert. His most heartfelt reading occurred in Jana'cek's "Sonata I.X. 1905," two movements (the composer destroyed the third a day before the piece's premiere) commemorating the death of a bystander during a Czech-German uprising in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Here, the pianist's mood was reflective, his playing genuinely involved in extracting emotion.