Friday, 12 February 2010

SARA BUECHNER Piano Recital / Review

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory
Wednesday (10 February 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 12 February 2010.

A most interesting piano recital took place at the Conservatory on Wednesday evening. Not only was the repertoire tantalisingly different, the American Sara Davis Buechner is also possibly the only transgender classical pianist in the concert circuit today.

Before her gender reassignment surgery in 1998, the artist formerly known as David Buechner had won a wardrobe-full of international prizes and amassed a diverse discography. Sex matters aside, Buechner presented two hours of simply amazing pianism, and mimicked a more than decent stand-up comedian.

David & Sara Davis

Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s chorale prelude Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland, its deep solemn thoughts, was shaped with a heartwarming organ-like sonority. Beefy chords and delicately spun filigree, topped with a silky smooth touch also caressed shorter pieces from Busoni students Egon Petri and Michael von Zadora.

The masterclass of how the piano ought to be played continued with Mozart’s less-often heard Sonata in B flat major (K.570), where Buechner fully lived up to the composer’s dictum of “flowing like oil”. Rarely has its simple unison opening resounded with such clarity and sincerity. The slow movement reveled in hymn-like countenance while the Allegretto finale danced with a spirited and playful joie de vivre.

Then her shoes came off – literally - for the Bohemian Bohuslav Martinu’s Fantaisie et Toccata, a coruscating white-knuckled showpiece executed with a fearless bravura so as to knock the socks off an audience. Speaking of which, the many latecomers were also entertained with Buechner’s “walking music”, some cakewalk improvised as they found their seats.
Pondering on the next witticism.

The jokes flowed in the second half, ostensibly to forestall further late entries. Dry wit and humour helped break the ice between listeners and the otherwise severe-looking performer but she need not have worried as the playing itself was ravishing and readily communicative.

The Vintner’s Daughter, a colourful set of variations by the Hungarian Miklos Rozsa, better known for the scores of Ben Hur and Spellbound, received the Technicolor treatment. Although based on a French folksong, its ingenuity was pure Magyar, recalling Bartok and Kodaly.

American music closed the recital on several highs. Buechner’s way with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was infectious, with the sheer sweep of the composer himself. Ever the life of a party, he threw in two riproaring encores, Gershwin’s improvisations of Do, Do, Do and Swanee. People will still be talking about this recital in years to come.

Do, Do, Do... play it again, Sara.

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