Frank Dupree / Rosanne Philippens / Case Scaglione

Nikolai Kapustin: Piano Concerto No. 4; Double Concerto; Chamber Symphony

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Nikolai Kapustin: Piano Concerto No. 4; Double Concerto; Chamber Symphony Review

by James Manheim

The late Nikolai Kapustin labored for much of his life in obscurity, but there are signs that his music is undergoing a revival. Marc-André Hamelin has played his highly virtuosic music from time to time, and the year 2021 brought a pair of all-Kapustin recordings. One, from pianist Yeol Eum Son, focused on smaller works, while the present album contains a pair of concertos and the Chamber Symphony, Op. 57. Kapustin's classical-jazz fusion is of a unique kind. The usual way to approach the problems in the genre, from the Modern Jazz Quartet on down, is to add an improvisatory element to classical models. Kapustin goes in a different direction. His music is not improvised, but its content is jazz, molded into classical forms like the sonata and concerto in quite a variety of ways. Kapustin has sometimes been called the Russian Gershwin, and the comparison is apt in the case of the brassy Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 56, where pianist Frank Dupree, who has a background as a jazz percussionist, delivers a headlong, high-energy performance with able work from the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra under Case Scaglione. There's an influence from Shostakovich (who was himself not untouched by jazz) here, and Dupree captures that as well. The Concerto for violin and piano, Op. 105, adds the capable Rosanne Philippens on violin and features a ferocious ragtime passage in the middle of the finale. Son's recording is more attuned to the humor in Kapustin's works, and actually, the two albums complement each other. This one introduces works that could be added profitably to any symphonic concert.

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