Nikolai Kapustin (1937 – 2020)

Composer and jazz pianist




The passing away of Nikolai Kapustin was sad news for many pianists and fans of jazz- inspired music. I am a big fan of Kapustin and I find his music unusually bright, creative with a magic „drive“.

The first pianist who ever played his music was the famous Nikolai Petrov, who performed the 2 sonata of N. Kapustin and selected jazz sketches of then unknown aspiring composer. The music grew in popularity only after 2000 due to the general trend of search for cross-overs and fusions of styles in traditional classical works. As a result of his universal popularity, many participants chose to play Kapustin works at many piano competitions. It became „en vogue“. Pianists of all levels would have at least one piece in their repertoire and play it mostly as encore.

The music of Nikolai Kapustin, written in jazz style, immediately captured my imagination. It had frenzied energy, infectious rhythms, beautiful melodies, and some unusual charisma. This kind of music is an invisible magnet and it can attract not only performers but also listeners thanks to some inexplicable rhythmic magic and optimistic energy. I would say about his composing style that he was filling the old traditional glasses of „classical form“ with expensive champagne with an intoxicating effect.

Nikolai Kapustin was very productive in his musical life, he wrote about 20 piano sonatas, a cycle of "24 Preludes and Fugues", jazz etudes, several piano concerts, rhapsody, toccata, intermezzo, burlesques, suites, string quintets, quartets, works for the symphony orchestra. The first composition that I heard and played was his dreamy „Reverie“ from the set of etudes. I I would never have thought that it was possible to write such luxurious, virtuoso, and very difficult in pianistic terms sketches in jazz style with various kinds of piano techniques for classically-trained pianists.

I hope that my recording of his serenely beautiful prelude nr. 5 from his „24 Preludes in Jazz Style“ captured the spirit of Kapustin personality and carried to my listeners this never-ending feeling of joy and positive energy that he so treasured during his lifetime.

Farewell, dear Nikolai, your music will continue living in our hearts.

Foto Credit: Kapustin-Nikolai Schott Music Peter Andersen