PIANIST IS GOLDEN AND GIFTED - The Coast Reporter January 26, 2007

Outside the Raven's Cry Theatre last Sunday all was dark and gloomy. Inside, all was golden. Sara Davis Buechner, pianist was giving a concert for the Coast Recital Society's full house of classical music fans. Gold from the houselights glinted off her blonde hair and onto the lid of the concert grand piano.

Her passion for Mozart was pretty much golden, too. It became particularly obvious in the third selection, the Sonata in B flat major, KV.333, in which the first and third movement frame the middle adagio notable for its poignant, heartfelt expression. Buechner swayed with the music; the expressiveness moved through her body and into the keys.

In the pre-concert chat, Buechner had said that Mozart was a composer she had loved since her earliest memories, and with these selections she liked to replicate a sense of Mozart having a conversation. Buechner knew that music was her life from the age of three or four. “Piano was my favourite toy,” she told the audience.

Still very much a New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx, she thanked her parents for recognizing that she could achieve a higher level of education; even though neither were musicians, they had the sense to listen to good music.

She moved to Canada to take a teaching position at University of British Colum-bia after Robert Silverman retired and has now decided that it should be her permanent home. “As they say in the Bronx, get used to it,” she quipped.

This same informal and non-stuffy style was apparent in her selection of music. In response to a question from the audience, she said that George Gershwin was a fine classical composer in her view, not a jazz musician, and she told the story of how she had once sneered at Gershwin from the lofty point of view of a 23-year-old. Then she heard his famous composition, Rhapsody in Blue, played while travelling in Europe, and tears of homesickness came to her eyes. “He evoked so powerfully [New York’s] time and place.” During the second half, Buechner played three foxtrot improvisations by Gershwin, then let loose on Rhapsody in Blue with a force and rapidity that captured the city — its traffic, its style, its vitality — rendered in music.

Her concert also spotlighted the work of Rudolf Friml, a Bohemian composer whose light-hearted work was suitable for theatre.

The pianist revealed some of the other loves of her life: baseball and Japan, where she has taught and learned the language. She has even composed some of the brief songs that Japanese baseball teams like to play during the game. Another love is playing for the silent movies, a career that was very big business during the 1920s but foundered after talkies arrived. “You play what you see on the page,” she said, “but also you improvise according to your emotions while watching the film.”

The Coast Recital Society (CRS) offers a full slate in the next two months: A Few More, an ensemble of remarkable musicians put together by impresario and bassoonist George Zukerman, appears on Saturday, Feb. 3. There could be some 15 players on stage with a variety of instruments, including trumpeter Guy Few, clarinetist Francois Houle and pianist Jane Hayes.

“It’s a repertoire rarely heard for a wind ensemble,” says Frances Heinsheimer Wainwright, artistic director of CRS.

Wainwright is also excited about the next performance on Sunday, Feb. 18, of Shauna Rolston on cello and Heather Schmidt on piano. “She’s one of the finest cellists, and we’ve been hoping to bring her to the Coast for years. She’s a sensation,” says Wainwright. Schmidt is both a pianist and a composer and will perform one of her own compositions.

The Gryphon Trio will give a concert on Saturday and Sunday, March 10 and 11 in a Weekend in Vienna. The popular chamber ensemble will play composers associated with Vienna, including Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, over two afternoons with pre-concert chats included. Although the series is heavily subscribed, there are usually a few tickets available. For tickets for one day or for the weekend, contact Mary Lea Bell at 604-886-8330. The new season from CRS will be announced soon.

- Jan Degrass, Arts & Entertainment Writer