If you’re going to write a piano concerto for the audaciously gifted Chinese-born superstar Yuja Wang, then why not make it a humdinger? That’s certainly the approach that the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg took in composing his Piano Concerto No. 3, a 35-minute work of formidable technical challenges and winning musical ideas written expressly for Ms. Wang and given its premiere by the San Francisco Symphony led by Esa-Pekka Salonen at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday night.[…] Mr. Lindberg heard Ms. Wang perform both of Dmitri Shostakovich’s delightfully robust concertos at a single concert and, smitten, offered to write her a work she could call her own. He is hardly alone in this regard: In 2019, she gave the premiere of a concerto written for her by John Adams, “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?,” in which she partnered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel ; and earlier this year, her friend Teddy Abrams, music director of the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky, wrote one for her to perform with his group.
Mr. Lindberg’s work, in three distinct movements, teases music lovers with homages to Ravel and Debussy, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff, Liszt and, in the finale, Gershwin. But in doing so, the composer achieves that rarest of admixtures, a work that recalls the greatness of others while creating a sound world entirely his own […] the interplay between soloist and orchestra is superbly balanced—neither party seems shortchanged at any point—and Mr. Lindberg’s cadenzas for Ms. Wang in the first and second movements prove spellbinding, not least because they require all manner of subtle dynamic shifts that produce a hitherto unappreciated kaleidoscopic quality in the pianist’s tone. And though they must, in fact, be extraordinarily difficult to play, Ms. Wang dispatched them with typically preternatural ease.