Review: Yuja Wang tackles a massive new piano concerto without breaking a sweat

Datebook – San Francisco Chronicle

If you’re a composer writing a piano concerto for the extraordinary soloist Yuja Wang, you end up reckoning with the unearthly fact that she can do anything and everything at the keyboard.

It doesn’t matter how many notes or chords you throw at her, or how rapidly you string them together — Wang is going to flash her unworried smile, tear through the score with effortless ease, and then sit back as if to say, “Is that all you got?”

That scary brilliance surfaced yet again in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, Oct. 13, when she joined Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony for the world premiere of the massive Piano Concerto No. 3 commissioned by the orchestra from Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg. It’s a piece with more notes per square yard than just about anything in the repertoire, and Wang blazed her way through it as if it were a training piece.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Wang’s playing is flawless, but it doesn’t suggest that music like Lindberg’s comes without its difficulties. There’s an excitingly athletic charge about witnessing what she can accomplish with a score that seems like it should be impossible to get through, at least for anyone else.

It’s just that she doesn’t let you see her sweat.