Pianist Yuja Wang’s New Album “The American Project”
Celebrating America’s rich musical culture, Yuja Wang’s “The American Project” showcases her virtuosity in Jazz, Latin, and Blues styles in a world premiere recording of Teddy Abrams’ Piano Concerto, written especially for her.
The second work on the album is You Come Here Often? for solo piano, also written for Wang by another close friend, Michael Tilson Thomas. Both works were recorded live with the Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Abrams, its music director.
Wang and Abrams met as students while studying at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and formed a lasting friendship. Initially developed as a short companion piece to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Abrams’ Piano Concerto later transformed into a 35-minute standalone showpiece.
Written in eleven sections, Abrams’ Piano Concerto involves a swing-style big band overture, three solo cadenzas, an “orchestra break” in the style of Gershwin, Latin jazz-inspired “Solos,” and American gospel tunes. Wang performed the world premiere with the Louisville Orchestra at the Kentucky Center in January 2022.
“The piano, in particular, is a kind of wanderer that makes it through hundreds of years of musical history, and is so translatable to other styles,” Abrams said. “I see this concerto as an opportunity for the piano to guide us through what I think is one of the strengths of American culture, its plurality, its interconnectedness,” he continued. “I think Yuja’s one of the greatest pianists alive, and of all time. I always intended for her to be the one to take this piece and make it her own.”
The album represents close connections between Wang and the two composers — Abrams received his first conducting lessons at age 11 from Tilson Thomas, who became a mentor and friend. Tilson Thomas also supported Wang at the beginning of her career and whose 2016 work You Come Here Often? was part of a project increasing her stock of encores to perform.