Customer Review

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't pass this one by!, 18 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Kapustin: Piano Music (Audio CD)
The name Nikolai Kapustin will probably leave all but a very few people scratching their heads. Born in 1937, Kapustin is very much alive, a wonderfully prolific and active composer, and a virtuoso pianist of the highest caliber. He studied piano at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Goldenweiser, and is in possession of a world-class technique (I have been extremely fortunate to hear recordings of Kapustin performing his own music). Since his earliest student days as a composer/pianist, he has embraced the jazz idiom, with remarkable freshness and seemingly endless inspiration. Make no mistake though, this is not classical/jazz "cross-over", nor classical music with a whiff of jazz, but more the other way around. It is much closer to true jazz improvisation, meticulously written out, and in the right hands, capable of sounding incredibly free and spontaneous. And yet, Kapustin writes his style of music within established classical forms, like sonatas for example, of which he has written ten thus far, with hopefully more to come. I haven't heard anything quite like it. In that sense, his music is original in its own way, while at the same time clearly descended from two very established musical styles. The few people I know, all classical musicians, who have encountered Kapustin's music have had immediate and overwhelmingly favorable responses to it, myself included. I would think only the most staunchly conservative guardians of old-world western classical music traditions, or hardened jazz-haters would not love this man's music. There are very few pianists performing Kapustin's piano music in the world today, mostly because of extremely hard to find scores, and thus a general ignorance of his existence. My introduction to Kapustin's music was the pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, who has been programming Kapustin's Piano Sonata #2 on many of his recitals world-wide in recent times. Anyone who has heard Hamelin play Kapustin will not soon forget it, and I had sincerely hoped the he would make the first all-Kapustin CD. Nevertheless, as I listen to Steven Osbourne's playing on this disc, I find it nearly impossible to find fault with his playing in any way. At age 29, he is brimming with youthful vigor, and is totally at home in the jazz idiom. He has technique to burn, and exactly the right balance of rhythmic snap, clarity, and spontaneity to make these works jump off the page and out of your speakers. In the gentler moments, of which there are many, he conjures up a wonderful velvety, smoky, nocturnal mood that feels exactly right, not the least bit overdone or contrived. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Osbourne was a skilled improviser when not playing other people's music. In the Piano Sonata #2, Osbourne does not quite match Hamelin's fire, intensity, or overwhelming virtuosity in the "live" performances of this work I have heard, but he is quite rewarding in other ways. His slightly slower tempi in the fast movements and mellower approach allow the listener to be truly seduced by the music rather than being blown away by it, though frankly, I can be happy with either approach. If any of this sounds even halfway interesting to you, don't hesitate on this one. Buy it now, and thank me later. You'll be begging for more Kapustin before long.
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Initial post: 21 Jun 2011 08:42:09 BDT
I heard a young pianist, Julian Clef, play a Kapustin sonata at the Royal Northern College of Music on Sunday (19/6/2011). I'd not previously come across the composer and was simply bowled over. Julian won a gold medal from the college for his performance and it was well deserved. I think we're going to hear a great deal from this young pianist in the future.
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