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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1 (Sonata fantasia); Piano Sonata No. 2; 24 Preludes in Jazz Style (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Steven Osborne (piano)
In the late Fifties, Nikolai Kapustin spent his days studying classical piano with Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatoire and his evenings playing jazz piano with Yuri Saulsky’s big band. After graduating, he spent the next 11 years touring with a mainstream jazz orchestra. But, unlike fellow pianists such as Sergey Kuryokhin and Slava Ganelin, who became world-famous avant-garde improvisers, Kapustin retained a parallel career as a straight composer, prolific in classical forms like the concerto and sonata.


The music on this CD supports Steven Osborne’s claim that Kapustin’s classical writing is steeped in his jazz influences. Yet this seems less like creative innovation than personal nostalgia for the musics he played in his formative years – late-Romantic classicism and American jazz of the Twenties and Thirties. Kapustin’s synthesis is well-crafted, has some exciting moments and generally exudes a breezy élan. (It is also superbly performed by Osborne.) But it remains a pastiche that imitates and blends without ever transcending its sources. As Osborne notes, Kapustin rejects much of the classical music of the 20th century; he also ignores much of the jazz of the last 50 years. The result is a music that, for all its surface vivacity, sounds contrived and rather quaint. Graham Lock