Yet it stoops to conquer, missing a vision beyond the sum of its parts. Like many new works of broad and immediate appeal, it lacks originality, even as it revels in craft. Mr. Abrams has said that he conceived his concerto partly as something that might be paired on a program with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” to which he pays affectionate homage at various points, especially in the work’s final pages. Well before he gets there, he celebrates the jazzy themes to TV series from the mid-1960s and early ’70s, as well as jazz generally, opening with big-band effects that announce an easy-listening experience.
Ms. Wang enters with similar effusion, plunging into a sort of stride-piano display of fiendish complication that she, naturally, blazes through. She also holds her own against the more than 60 players that make up the orchestra—including several imported for the occasion (on three saxophones, electric guitar and bass, drum kit, etc.), a band within the larger group. Often, though, she had the stage to herself, thanks to the three meaty cadenzas that anchor this single-movement concerto.
Musical references abound throughout—to 19th-century pianism à la Liszt, to Ravel and Debussy, to Rachmaninoff, Bernstein and
Manuel de Falla,
and to at least three major film composers:
It’s all great fun, but after a while the tropes begin to bore.