Author Topic: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?  (Read 9957 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Josquin des Prez

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3654
  • Lyric Suite, Opus131
Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« on: January 06, 2009, 08:24:54 PM »
First, a little biographical info:

Quote
Nikolai Kapustin (Russian: Николай Капустин, Nikolay Kapustin; born November 22, 1937 in Gorlovka, Ukraine) is a Russian composer and pianist.

Kapustin studied piano with Avrelian Rubakh (pupil of Felix Blumenfeld who also taught Simon Barere and Vladimir Horowitz) and, later, Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory. During the 1950s he acquired a reputation as a jazz pianist, arranger and composer. He is steeped, therefore, in both the traditions of classical virtuoso pianism and improvisational jazz.

He fuses these influences in his compositions, using jazz idioms in formal classical structures. A striking example of this is his Suite in the Old Style op. 28, written in 1977, which inhabits the sound world of jazz improvisation but is modelled on baroque suites such as the keyboard partitas composed by J. S. Bach, each movement being a stylised dance (or sometimes a pair of dances) in strict binary form. Other examples of this fusion are his set of 24 Preludes and Fugues op. 82 written in 1997, and the op. 100 Sonatina.

Kapustin views himself as a composer rather than a jazz musician. He has said, "I was never a jazz musician. I never tried to be a real jazz pianist, but I had to do it because of the composing. I’m not interested in improvisation – and what is a jazz musician without improvisation? All my improvisation is written, of course, and they became much better; it improved them."

Among his works are 18 piano sonatas, six piano concerti, other instrumental concerti, sets of piano variations, études and concert studies.

The composer has extensively recorded his own music on Russian and Japanese record labels. His music has recently been championed by a number of prominent western pianists, notably Steven Osborne and Marc-André Hamelin.

And here's a few videos of the man at work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xht5tUg3K8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDWeGp4UE6M
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUYiD7VGBXY

I think the parallels between this composer and Scarlatti are pretty obvious. Besides the virtuosity, Kapustin absorbed a particular musical style, that of Oscar Peterson, and made it his own, the same way Scarlatti adopted the sound of Spanish folk music and transformed it into something wholly original. Also like Scarlatti, his playing is always full of energy and dynamism, nary an adagio in his entire output. They even seem to share the same misanthropic tendencies. The only point in which they seem to differ is that Scarlatti developed his own unique form into which he incorporated all the various techniques at his disposal, while Kapustin seems to enjoy molding his Jazz inspired idiom into traditional classical patterns. Toccata, sonata, etude, variation, concerto, fugue, it's all there, and his inventiveness never seems to dry out, another thing which he shares with Scarlatti. Among some of his most unorthodox pieces there's a String Quartet in Jazz style, which needs to be heard to be believed. His contrapuntal writing is also some of the best i ever had the pleasure to listen to.

Alas, most of his recordings are very hard to find. Both Hamelin and Steven Osborne have recorded some of his music, but there is no substitute for the composer himself. Many of them are available through P2P and it's probably worth to look for them that way rather then experience the music from second hand accounts.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 07:01:30 AM by Josquin des Prez »

Offline Josquin des Prez

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3654
  • Lyric Suite, Opus131
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2009, 08:49:20 PM »
I'm going to politely disagree. 

Sure, his music does sound a bit the same, much like the music of Scarlatti sounds the same. This is of course a superficial illusion. There's an endless amount of variation and invention in the works of either composer. Besides, when was the last time you listened to a piano sonata in Jazz style? Or a set of 24 prelude and fugues in all major and minor keys which at the same time sounded like it came straight from the hands of Oscar Peterson?

Granted, his music isn't innovative in the same way a Stockhausen is innovative, but i didn't know innovation wasn't really innovative unless it was kosher approved. ;D

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 22541
    • Brian's blog
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2009, 08:59:13 PM »
I'm going to politely disagree. 

Sure, his music does sound a bit the same, much like the music of Scarlatti sounds the same. This is of course a superficial illusion. There's an endless amount of variation and invention in the works of either composer. Besides, when was the last time you listened to a piano sonata in Jazz style? Or a set of 24 prelude and fugues in all major and minor keys which at the same time sounded like it came straight from the hands of Oscar Peterson?

Granted, his music isn't innovative in the same way a Stockhausen is innovative, but i didn't know innovation wasn't really innovative unless it was kosher approved. ;D
I'm a little disappointed to learn about Kapustin, actually, because lately I "composed" a jazz string quartet in my head for fun and was quite proud of how original I thought I was.

And P.D.Q. Bach has written a pretty intriguing handful of preludes and fugues in the jazz style; if they are any indication, the form has a lot more promise than one would expect. (Note to smart-alecks: I am NOT being facetious. Listen to The Short-Tempered Clavier's more clever portions, like the c major prelude or the c minor fugue, and try not to be impressed. This is more than mere satire.)
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 09:01:05 PM by Brian »

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3501
  • Location: Chicagoland
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2009, 12:29:29 AM »
I've heard the name, but never knew anything about him. Thanks for the info  0:)

Since I live in Moscow, it shouldn't be too hard to find Kapustin recordings...
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 22541
    • Brian's blog
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2011, 03:04:40 AM »
For the Kapustin enthusiasts: there's a future Naxos release with pianist Catherine Gordeladze, of whom I've never heard before, playing the complete Eight Concert Etudes and Twenty-Four Preludes. It's an outstanding recording, far more in tune with the jazzy idiom than Hamelin's dry, miniaturizing accounts, and a little more relaxed and lyrical than Kapustin's own playing. The CD will be released in November but until then it can be heard on Naxos Music Library or downloaded on the cheap from ClassicsOnline. I'll be writing a MusicWeb review comparing Hamelin, Osborne, Kapustin and Gordeladze over the next couple weeks, so some intensive Kapustin listening is on its way!

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2011, 10:14:17 AM »
For the Kapustin enthusiasts: there's a future Naxos release with pianist Catherine Gordeladze, of whom I've never heard before, playing the complete Eight Concert Etudes and Twenty-Four Preludes. It's an outstanding recording, far more in tune with the jazzy idiom than Hamelin's dry, miniaturizing accounts, and a little more relaxed and lyrical than Kapustin's own playing.

Completely disagree. I don't find Hamelin's account dry at all. I think the problem is more with the recording, which always seems to plague Hamelin's recordings (and Osborne, for that matter) on Hyperion. It always seems to sound like the piano has a pillow in it. I have seen him play Kapustin live and I know just how well he can play it. However, even through the recording quality, you can hear a natural ability to bring out the inherent musicality in the works, with a unique sense of excitement. As for Kapustin, his recording suffered from a lack of budget, but you could not get more relaxed than that. Just listen to his recording of the Sonata Fantasy (No. 1) for proof of his mastery of all aspects of his own music. It is fluid, sensitive, and brilliant when it needs to be. I have the Gordeladze recording, and I found it just like another student account of those pieces, in that it has no identity or personal direction from what I can hear. It definitely reminded me of all the mindless technical renditions of Kapustin I have heard in universities I have attended. Some of the performances even sound a bit labored, such as the first etude. Perhaps I am a bit biased and have gotten used to Hamelin and Kapustin's recordings, which I have owned for many years, but there is another recording I can recommend (a new one, actually). There is a marvelous new disk with pianists Daniel del Pino and Ludmil Angelov teamed up with the percussion duo Neopercusión. The two pianists alternate playing the 8 Concert Etudes and the Piano Sonata No. 14. They come together to play the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion and the Paraphrase on Dizzy Gillespie's Manteca for 2 pianos. This CD is worth the extra $8-10 that you would pay for the Gordeladze disk, namely because you get a tried and true classic in the 8 Concert Etudes, played by Daniel del Pino in a way that rivals the two wonderful recordings by Kapustin and Hamelin (who I would consider the foremost authority on Kapustin, as far as Western pianists go). You also get three brand new pieces by Kapustin that should find a permanent place in the repertoire, if this were a perfect world, that is. The Paraphrase on Dizzy Gillespie's Manteca is a piece you will play over and over and over again.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2011, 10:27:45 AM by lescamil »
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 57501
  • Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    19th Century through the 21st Century
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2011, 09:20:20 AM »
Kapustin isn't a great composer or even a good composer, but merely a mediocre one who tries to sound like a jazz pianist by invoking the sound of improvisation into a composition, which all great musicians will tell you that improvisation can't be written or else that defeats the whole purpose of improvisation. This composer is delusional and a poor excuse for a creative artist.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 09:40:44 AM by Mirror Image »
"When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something." - Dmitri Shostakovich

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2011, 10:56:01 AM »
Kapustin isn't a great composer or even a good composer, but merely a mediocre one who tries to sound like a jazz pianist by invoking the sound of improvisation into a composition, which all great musicians will tell you that improvisation can't be written or else that defeats the whole purpose of improvisation. This composer is delusional and a poor excuse for a creative artist.

That's the wonderful thing about opinions: everyone has them, just like something else that everyone has. Sure, there are people who don't like Kapustin's approach to composition, but if you really dig deep and look at the music, it is undeniable that there is a creative voice at work here. It may not be a unique idiom, but it is a unique approach to the idiom. Just look at the Piano Sonata No. 2, for example. The piece is the perfect blend of Beethovenian sonata form and many idioms of jazz, all held together with pianistic writing that rivals Medtner in terms of comfort in the hand. This is what truly makes him a good, or even great, composer. He is a pianist's pianist and a pianist's composer, and it is music that is not necessarily a pure invocation of improvisation, but just a composer's approach to multiple idioms, which is absolutely nothing new in music. I would compare his approach to jazz to Bartók's approach to gypsy music.
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Offline Lethevich

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 9748
  • I spilled my drink!
  • Currently Listening to:
    Rihm, Bialas, Ballif, Schumann, Schubert
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2011, 11:06:04 AM »
I don't really hear "improvisation" in his music, or an attempt to pretend that it is there. Where "jazz" applies to his style sounds to me simply the tonality and style of his gestures. The pieces themselves are very solidly classical. I'm neither a lover or hater, it's just good stuff.
Peanut butter, flour and sugar do not make cookies. They make FIRE.

Offline Guido

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3324
  • 396 CCs
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2011, 11:19:32 AM »
I agree, there's really nothing improvisatory about his music. Apparently the 24 preludes and fugues are the apogee of his output... true?
Geologist.

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 57501
  • Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    19th Century through the 21st Century
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2011, 11:53:05 AM »
That's the wonderful thing about opinions: everyone has them, just like something else that everyone has. Sure, there are people who don't like Kapustin's approach to composition, but if you really dig deep and look at the music, it is undeniable that there is a creative voice at work here. It may not be a unique idiom, but it is a unique approach to the idiom. Just look at the Piano Sonata No. 2, for example. The piece is the perfect blend of Beethovenian sonata form and many idioms of jazz, all held together with pianistic writing that rivals Medtner in terms of comfort in the hand. This is what truly makes him a good, or even great, composer. He is a pianist's pianist and a pianist's composer, and it is music that is not necessarily a pure invocation of improvisation, but just a composer's approach to multiple idioms, which is absolutely nothing new in music. I would compare his approach to jazz to Bartók's approach to gypsy music.


Yes, everybody has opinions and my opinion of Kapustin still stands which he's merely a mediocre composer with nothing original or unique to say with his music.
"When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something." - Dmitri Shostakovich

Offline Guido

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3324
  • 396 CCs
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2011, 12:24:36 PM »
Kapustin isn't a great composer or even a good composer, but merely a mediocre one who tries to sound like a jazz pianist by invoking the sound of improvisation into a composition, which all great musicians will tell you that improvisation can't be written or else that defeats the whole purpose of improvisation. This composer is delusional and a poor excuse for a creative artist.

Even after an edit this doesn't make sense!
Geologist.

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 57501
  • Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    19th Century through the 21st Century
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2011, 12:48:54 PM »
Even after an edit this doesn't make sense!

Allow me to make myself clearer: Kapustin writes music that tries to sound like improvised jazz piano music. I think his music has nothing interesting to say nor does he have an original style of his own. If you don't understand what I just wrote, then I'm sorry, I made it as clear for you as possible.
"When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something." - Dmitri Shostakovich

PaulSC

  • Guest
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2011, 01:04:47 PM »
I think Kapustin is a minor talent whose best work is well worth hearing. (I guess I'd place him halfway between MI's "merely mediocre" and JdP's "the D. Scarlatti of our time" -- but I might not find the latter assessment objectionable if it weren't for my extremely high opinion of Scarlatti.) Based on the bits and pieces I've managed to hear, Kapustin's style is consistent but his level of inspiration wavers.

The notion that Kapustin is trying to invoke the sound of improvisation in a fixed composition is a particularly bizzare basis for criticism, I must say. On the one hand, what he draws from jazz has much more to do with syncopation and harmonic vocabulary than with improvisational tropes. And on the other hand, classical music has a long and rich history of emulating improvisation in fixed forms -- a history that encompasses the keyboard fantasias of Froberger, Bach, and Mozart, the Op. 27 sonatas of Beethoven, Bartok's Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, and of course a much longer list.

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2011, 03:58:58 PM »
I think Kapustin is a minor talent whose best work is well worth hearing.

I think this puts Kapustin best. There are many composers we all listen to and like on this forum. Not all composers can be a Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms (et al), but that doesn't mean the composers who are actually human aren't worth listening to for whatever merits they have. It may come off as a pure transcription of an improvisation, but it is far more than that. It is well within the tradition of improvisational music that is associated with the likes of the composers that the previous poster mentioned. If one has a problem with that element of Kapustin's music, then that person also has a problem with the likes of Bartók, Bach, Beethoven, etc., when it comes to that sort of music.
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Offline Ten thumbs

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1444
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2011, 12:40:57 PM »
I'm wondering whether or not Kapustin composes his music for our queen to play.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

PaulSC

  • Guest
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2011, 12:45:19 PM »
I'm wondering whether or not Kapustin composes his music for our queen to play.


Sure, why not?

Offline vers la flamme

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3017
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2020, 03:53:16 PM »
I've just discovered this composer in the wake of his death and am really enjoying his music. What are some essential recordings? I have the Steven Osborne Hyperion recording
« Last Edit: August 19, 2020, 04:17:22 PM by vers la flamme »

Offline vers la flamme

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3017
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Nikolai Kapustin, the Scarlatti of our day?
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2020, 02:01:36 AM »
I've just ordered this:



Thoughts on the composer's own recordings vs those of other pianists? There are plenty of Kapustin recordings out there on Naxos, Piano Classics, and others, pianists I've never heard of mostly, but frustratingly it doesn't seem like any one pianist has recorded more than one disc of Kapustin other than the composer himself. I have no idea where to start.

Have any of his piano concertos been recorded?