Born in 1937, the Ukrainian-Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin has gradually gained recognition among Western music scholars and pianists by blending American jazz idioms into classical forms, such as concertos, sonatas, and preludes; recently he has become a very prominent composer. As one of the most prolific composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, he has composed over 160 works to date. Most of them are piano solo works. The uniqueness of his compositional philosophy is that he consistently treats the music language of jazz as a core element in all his output, while others might only use jazz idioms experimentally in their works.
Being an excellent pianist himself, Kapustin has recorded many of his own works, giving a firsthand reference for interpreting his piano music. Some of his most famous works, including the Variations, Op. 41, the Eight Concert Etudes, Op. 40, and the 24 Preludes in Jazz Style, Op. 53 have been recorded by other prominent artists, such as Steven Osborne and Marc-Andre Hamelin.
Scholarly research on Kapustin’s piano works remains limited. Most of it is found in journal articles and dissertations. Unfortunately, all of them are focused on his early popular works. His more recent works from 2007-2013: the Six Little Pieces, Op. 133, Dialogue, Op. 148, Etude Courte mais Transcendante pour piano, Op. 149, Nobody Is Perfect, Op. 151, A Pianist In Jeopardy, Op. 152, and Wandering, Op. 153, have not yet been discussed in any scholarly writing.
In brief, the purpose of this study is to present a first recording of these six major solo works, and to examine them in a research paper. The paper discusses Kapustin’s consistent use of jazz elements in his recent works, addresses musical and technical concerns in their performance practice, and facilitates more extended study of these valuable but yet to be recorded works.
The paper consists of eight parts. The first part covers brief background information on the composer, as well as reviewing important jazz features, in order to more effectively analyze his stylistic language in the six compositions which are explored in the subsequent chapters including a conclusion.