“In “Devil,” the starting point is the funk of rollicking barrelhouse piano, which in an informal series of variations gets cut up, rhythmically and harmonically diffracted. Wang, who has been flirting with jazz and improvisation and can deliver as mean a “Rhapsody in Blue” as anyone out there these days, becomes here a study in rhythmic grit.
The Bowl camera crew does the obvious in focusing on her fingers, which are very hard to take your eyes off. But equally illuminating was watching the tension in her posture and the concentration on her face (which got its own close-ups). She has internalized Adams’ complex rhythmic passages to such a degree that they are part of her every fiber. For that to happen, every note has to matter.
Stillness and glitter have become another Wang trait that Adams uses in a resplendent, slow central section that heats up to a thumping rhythmic finale. This may be the most remarkable part of the concerto. The backbone is a driving orchestral accompaniment in a style that goes back to Adams’ first opera, “Nixon in China.” But overlaying that is Wang barrelhousing like nobody’s business. Old Adams breaks apart just as old honky-tonk had earlier, the old becoming new.
With Dudamel and the L.A. Phil having had time to get comfortable with this “Devil” and Wang showing her potential for moving music forward, the L.A. Phil has a winner.”