16 January 2023
By Ellie Palmer
'The American Project' is set for release on 10 March via Deutsche Grammophon
Superstar pianist Yuja Wang will release an album of modern piano works this March.
'The American Project' features the world premiere recording of a major new work specially written for her by her friend Teddy Abrams, plus composer Michael Tilson Thomas’s improvisatory You Come Here Often?. The latter piece, which is the opening number on the album, grows from a simple rhythmic riff into a jazz fusion number complete with reflective episodes and rock-fuelled dash to the finish line.
Teddy Abrams's new Piano Concerto was originally conceived as a short companion composition to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. However, the piece blossomed to become a 35-minute standalone showpiece.
Abrams and Wang met during their student days at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Abrams – pianist, clarinettist, composer and conductor – and the then rising-star pianist became friends at the time, after he volunteered to accompany her in piano-only play-throughs of the standard concerto repertoire. Following his appointment as Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra in 2014, he began writing large-scale works for its musicians. “It was,” he recalls, “the beginning of a really special relationship that we have retained to this day.”
Abrams’s list of Louisville compositions grew following a discussion with Wang about her performing Rhapsody in Blue with the orchestra. His Piano Concerto is constructed in eleven sections, including a swing-style big band overture, three solo cadenzas, a Gershwinesque “orchestra break”, the Latin jazz-inspired “Solos” and passages that echo boogie-woogie, American gospel tunes or Broadway showstoppers. Yuja Wang joined the Louisville Orchestra and Abrams for the work’s world premiere at the Kentucky Center in January 2022 and stayed on to record the piece for Deutsche Grammophon.
The first piece from the album, You Come Here Often?, is out now.