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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Yuja Wang’s American Project Less Than Life Changing

By Norman Lebrecht on March 17, 2023

Yuja Wang (Photo: Norbert Kniat/DG)
Yuja Wang (Photo: Norbert Kniat/DG)

Yuja Wang: The American Project (DG)


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Our inbox has clogged up with readers’ demands to know what the new Yuja album is all about. So, if you insist, it’s neither one thing nor the other.

It begins with Yuja playing a 4:34 minute solo by Michael Tilson Thomas, followed by a half-hour piano concerto by Teddy Abrams. Both composers are, in the main, conductors — and it shows. The MTT vignette is a jazz-club vignette. The Abrams concerto falls midway between Glenn Miller and Big Bill Broonzy with a central patch of Hollywood marshmallow.

Yuja’s job involves honky-tonking around in the left hand without much glitter in the right. She can play this stuff, and much else, without batting an eyelash. To what purpose is another matter.

I sampled her piano solo on the most advanced audio-lab equipment and asked my hosts in disbelief if Yuja was playing a Steinway. She was, but she has reached the point of trademarking her own sound to the point where the manufacturer’s name practically falls off. The resultant sonority is both distinctive and intriguing. She needs to find better composers in future.

Teddy Abrams, is conductor of the Louisville Orchestra and has been touted for a while as the coming man without actually going anywhere, so far. Seems he’s a college pal of Yuja’s, and she’s returned a favour in this recording. Nothing in his piece changed my life, or my socks.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.


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