The American Project

The American Project

Pianist Yuja Wang and composer Teddy Abrams first met as students at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute in 2005, and that long-standing personal connection was the inspiration behind Wang’s album The American Project. “Friendship and the people in our life who share the same vision, the ones who point out to us what is fascinating in the world, this is what truly matters,” she says. Although Abrams’ Piano Concerto is the main work on the album, it begins with You Come Here Often?, a short, encore-style piece by another American composer-conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas. “It’s a work he started before he turned 20 and finished writing for me,” Wang comments. She premiered the piece in 2016, and senses in it “the excitement of the unknown, the not-yet-trodden territory of possible frivolous fun.” In January 2022, Wang also premiered Abrams’ Piano Concerto, with the composer himself conducting the Louisville Orchestra. “I had played with Teddy as a conductor before,” Wang says, “and always sensed this unstoppable creative energy in him, in his interpretations of the music, or even how he talks about current events.” Conceived initially as a piece for Wang to play in concert alongside Gershwin’s work for piano and orchestra Rhapsody in Blue, Abrams’ concerto sports a similar big-band influence, with unmistakable jazz inflections. “It’s written in an almost over-the-top, uplifting, and positive way,” Wang comments. “But it also has a classical concerto structure, cadenzas like the Russian warhorse concertos, and an ending reminiscent of Gershwin.” Each section of Abrams’ concerto is inspired by different musical styles, Wang continues. “The piano acts like a protagonist, a time machine that travels through the history of a lot of American music,” she explains. “It’s fun to delve into the interconnections between the motives, but you can also just turn the speakers up and enjoy the ride!”

You Come Here Often?
Piano Concerto

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