For several years now the Nova Chamber Music Series has billed itself as "a forum for resident artists." Which is another way of saying it gives Utah Symphony musicians and other local performers an opportunity for greater exposure in a more intimate setting.

It also, from time to time, makes room for outstanding non-resident artists, and such was the case Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts when it welcomed back pianist David Buechner, winner of the 1984 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.As it happens, that was also the year he first became acquainted with Utah Symphony concertmaster Ralph Matson, then a member of the Minnesota Orchestra. Conductor Leonard Slatkin put the two of them together on a chamber program and, despite lengthy intervals, they have continued to perform as a duo ever since.

Sunday they brought their artistry to bear on an intriguing program of Mozart, Stravinsky and Richard Strauss.

From Mozart, we heard his Violin Sonata in A major, K. 526, a work that dates from around the time of "Don Giovanni" but, especially in the slow movement, looks forward to "The Magic Flute."

As the program notes reminded us, Mozart's earliest works in this vein were listed by him as "pianoforte sonatas with the accompaniment of one violin," and that's almost how it sounded here. Because for all Matson's insights, it was Buechner who dominated this performance, both musically and sonically.

I don't know why it was decided to leave the piano lid on long stick - i.e., open all the way. But the result was a sound of such fullness as to almost bury the violin at times. Even without that, though, it would have been hard not to revel in the fluency and flexibility of Buechner's playing, as the rippling keyboard figurations poured from his fingers seemingly without effort.

Matson, by contrast, provided a leaner view, with a hint of melancholy in the slow movement and a bit more incisiveness in the concluding rondo, here sprightly and exuberant.

That added bite was even more welcome in the Stravinsky, his "Duo Concertant" from 1932, which finds him evoking classical poetic models. Perhaps because I moved back for this one, balances seemed better gauged, the piano likewise taking on a little more edge.

Whatever the reason, both artists seemed in sync with the work's more modernistic aspects, whether in the vividly characterized opening "Cantilene" or the "L'Histoire"-like writing of the first "Eglogue." After which some slippage in the "Eglogue 2" necessitated some retuning for the "Gigue," which nonetheless found a twinkle in the composer's eye, followed by the bittersweet longing of the "Dithyrambe."

Even here Buechner remained the more open-hearted of the two performers. But Matson came close in the Strauss Violin Sonata, a work that likewise dates from around the time of a "Don Juan" - in this case Strauss' tone poem of that name - and, despite its classical frame, partakes of the same romantic impulse.

Thus the ardor of the piano writing was matched by the lyrical breadth of the violin in a performance of admirable involvement. And that was as true of the Andante, here deeply felt and lovingly detailed, as it was the Finale, whose "Heldenleben"-like stride still permitted some playfulness.