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Yuja Wang performs her magic at the David Geffen Hall

Musical magic from the tip of the baton: Lola Cristall attends a memorable performance at the David Geffen Hall in New York
Photographed by Chris Lee
January 23, 2023/3.45

A conductor’s baton is like a magic wand leading an ensemble to create a musical vision and an imaginative escape.

At the start of 2023, a dynamic and bold performance made its way to the Wu Tsai Theater at David Geffen Hall in New York. Yuja Wang, a Beijing-born classical pianist, brilliantly performed a memorable thirty-minute-long Piano Concerto No. 3 by Magnus Gustaf Adolf Lindberg, a Finnish composer and pianist.

Lindberg’s work was exclusively written for Wang after he heard her Piano Concertos, Nos. 1 and 2 by Dimitri Shostakovich in 2019. He acknowledged her talent and advanced musical knowledge, composing a highly elaborate piece tailored exclusively for her masterfully musical proficiency. The complex composition took twenty-two months to compile.

New York audiences were introduced to such an extravagant piece in 2023, yet though it premièred in San Francisco in October 2022. Piano Concerto No. 3 was commissioned together by the China National Centre for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, Philharmonie de Paris–Orchestra de Paris and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester.

The pianist takes on the role of a storyteller, dictating a vivid tale in three parts. The first part of the concerto quietly began before making its way to an emotionally lit cadenza. The second portion evoked a slow pitch, a diminuendo, before advancing the rhythm as the piano and winds illuminated the room in preparation for Wang’s evocative solo touch. The third chapter applied a ponderous and heavy tone with a tinge of allegro mercato before the orchestra fully stepped in. The piano added sudden traces of emphasis for a distinct crescendo. Finnish conductor and percussionist, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, along with Wang, revive the tale Lindberg intended to tell by applying their profound ingenuity.

Wang responded to the audience’s enthusiastic applause with a brief encore playing Jean Sibelius’ Thirteen Pieces for Pianos Etude Op. 76 No. 2, which metaphorically served as a tribute to the world of Finnish musical artistry.

Wang incorporates in-depth techniques and harmony in a magnificent solo performance to awaken the musically hungry audience. She incorporates an invigorating harmonious landscape as her mesmerizing act, which vivaciously reverberates, and illuminates the hall. She applies melodious rhythm as she works in unison under the conductor’s baton.

Throughout the years, Lindberg received numerous accolades, including the Prix Italia in 1986, and the Nordic Council Music Prize for his composition of Kraft in 1988. He was added to the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1986. He was a composer-in-residence at the New York Philharmonic in 2009 and the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer-in-residence shortly after that.

As Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic’s music director, will step down after a six-year tenure and will be away from the David Geffen Hall spotlight until March, he leaves room on the podium for guest conductors. Rouvali magnificently led the orchestra to also perform the Semiramide Overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. The revamped hall echoed the stunning sounds that the conductor introduced, creating a mystical illusion travelling further than the tip of the baton. •
Lola Cristall is Paris editor of Lucire.

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Filed by Lola Cristall