“Collective sigh” marks audience appreciation


by Dennis Nordlund

On Friday night, the people from Oliver and area who ventured to the Frank Venables Theatre were treated to a very entertaining evening of polished piano music from Sara Davis Buechner. That evening’s performance marked the first time Sara had performed in the impressive Frank Venables Theatre, and on the new Yamaha C3 grand piano.  She had previously visited Oliver and performed at the old Venables theatre four years ago.

Sara’s concert was very entertaining as it included not only exceptional piano performances but also a good number of comedic interludes. Her talents at the keyboard were enhanced by clever stories sometimes carried out in a thick New York accent. Over the years, she has made a concerted effort to include a good deal of dialogue in her concerts after experiencing too many dry and ‘music-only’ recitals as a youth.

She opened the concert with the Fantasia in D minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Sara showed a very tasteful interpretation of essentially an ‘improvisational’ piece by including her own embellishments in the whimsical section at the end. Following the Fantasia, she played the Sonata in D major KV576, which was one of the last Sonatas that Mozart composed.  Sara progressed through the energetic Allegro, the relaxing minor Adagio and the contrapuntal Allegretto. The dexterity of both her hands through the scale passages in the last movement was quite impressive.

Sara then played a set of three Viennese waltzes of Austrian composer Eduard Gartner that had been arranged by pianist Ignaz Friedman.  Sara demonstrated her technical abilities in this playful waltz form filled with large leaps and intricate passages.

Sara’s love of music was evident in her artistry and her physical involvement at the piano. Even as she focused on the difficult repertoire you could tell she was enjoying herself at the keyboard. She connected with the audience through her music, of course, but also through interesting dialogue about the compositions and good old-fashioned humour.

Following the intermission Sara surprised the audience with two wonderful Rhapsodies of Johannes Brahms, Op.79. She played the B minor followed by the G minor.  Sara convincingly conveyed both the stormy intensity and the gentle melodies that Brahms is known for in his works.

Moving into the 20th century, Sara chose to play works of George Gershwin.  Gershwin played songs and improvisations to be recorded on piano rolls when he was only 14 years old.  Sara played a set of Foxtrots from this collection.  Some were from transcriptions of the approximately 250 piano rolls that Gershwin recorded over the years, and one was a piece that she learnt by ear from a recording of a piano roll when she visited Japan. It is not often that one hears a concert pianist perform repertoire that he or she has learnt by ear for an audience.

Following her last piece, and a very appreciative applause, Sara announced she would perform ‘The Man I Love” by Gershwin as a final song for the evening. The audience breathed a collective sigh and enjoyed the very sincere rendition Sara offered of a popular Gershwin standard. I am sure that the audience at the Frank Venables Theatre would be very happy to welcome Sara Davis Buechner back for another performance in the future.

Upcoming concerts:

QuintEssence: a cappella chamber choir. Friday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. Venables Theatre. Flex pass or single ticket $20. Available at Beyond Bliss Esthetics.

Jenavieve Moore: lyric soprano.  Friday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. Venables Theatre. Special ticket $20. Available at Beyond Bliss Esthetics.