The American Project
Tilson Thomas: You Come Here Often?; T Abrams: Piano Concerto
Yuja Wang (piano); Louisville Orchestra/Teddy Abrams
DG 486 4478 39:20 mins
From funky ostinatos to break-neck cadenzas, Yuja Wang dazzles throughout Teddy Abrams’s Piano Concerto. Originally written as a companion piece to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, the work plays on the jazz-meets-classical tropes. Its swinging overture evokes a traditional big band sound; with Wang’s first cadenza, though, the harmony becomes more fluid. Just as we settle into a contemporary soundworld, a blues riff sets up the exposition – a teetering conflict that’s repeatedly explored throughout the 11-part piece. Wang dances idiomatically with the Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Abrams – music director of the ensemble since 2014 and long-time friend of Wang’s (they studied together at the Curtis Institute of Music) – as they launch into a featherlight, Gatsby-esque swing finale.
You Come Here Often?, Michael Tilson Thomas’s 2016 solo miniature written for Wang, is in effect a musical sherbet lemon where the rhythmic exterior cracks to reveal an effervescent centre. Wang fizzes into the soft jazz section – a foley sound wolf whistle completes the impression of a club setting – before a customary barnstorming ending.