Customer Review

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Doesn't Matter What You Call It, It's Good!, 28 Nov. 2003
This review is from: Kapustin: Piano Music (Audio CD)
Boy, where to start? I wonder how the recording label, Hyperion, decided to put this in the 'classical' category. Probably they did so because Kapustin himself called these pieces 'Sonata' or 'Prelude.' But, truth to tell, I'm hard pressed to find very much in the way of easily identifiable classical music procedures here (aside from grouping four pieces together and labeling them a sonata) unless one considers an eleven-minute piece [the first movement of the Second Sonata] 'classical' on the basis of length alone; of course, that would require us to include some of the improvisations of people like Keith Jarrett or Cecil Taylor in that category, too, and I suppose some would do so. Of course, a composer can call his music whatever he likes (look at Satie!) and if Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) wants to give these pieces 'classical' titles, that's his privilege. Maybe one of our best Amazon classical CD reviewers, 'weirdears' [Chris Forbes], who is himself a jazz pianist and composer, should be reviewing this disc. How about it, Chris?
That aside, I found this CD to be entirely delightful, once I got over my expectation that I'd be hearing sonata-allegro or other similar procedures. And I had already had SOME idea what to expect because Marc-André Hamelin had included the Toccatina, Op. 36, on his 'Kaleidoscope' CD (also from Hyperion and highly recommended).
What we have here is a masterful compendium of piano jazz styles, everything from barrelhouse, stride and boogie to Bill Evans, Cecil Taylor, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner and Art Tatum, not to speak of the introspectively melodic close-hands technique of George Shearing and Denny Zeitlin. There is no question that Kapustin, who studied with one of the best classical piano teachers in Russia, Aleksandr Goldenweiser, and who has made his living off and on as a touring jazz pianist, has the technique to play (and write) spectacular solo jazz pieces. It is to his credit that he wrote them down--although I gather getting ahold of published copies of his music is a bit byzantine--and that young British pianist Steven Osborne has learned to play them. [One understands that there are bootleg recordings of Kapustin playing but I've never run across any of them.]
Leslie Gerber, a fine record reviewer specializing in piano music (and a fine pianist as well) dismisses this music as 'cocktail lounge' music. All I can say is that Gerber must hang out in better cocktail lounges than I've ever been to. This is superior jazz-making and it is no surprise to me that Osborne, whose own piano-playing credentials include a fine recording of Messaien's 'Vingt Regards' and a recently released CD of Alkan's 'Esquisses,' need not be embarrassed by this choice of repertoire.
So, the bottom line is this: if you like solo piano jazz and you have a taste for something a bit unusual, try this Russian 'Third Stream' music. I honestly don't think you'll be disappointed unless you imagine you're going to be hearing something like, say, Scriabin, Prokofiev or Medtner.
TT=69'11
Scott Morrison
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J Scott Morrison
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Location: Middlebury VT, USA

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