A sidelined Russian composer turns 80 this week

A sidelined Russian composer turns 80 this week


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2017

In the late Soviet era, Nikolai Kapustin looked like a route to the future – a composer who ignored party norms and wrote in an idiom that, while rooted in Bach, is easily mistaken for jazz.

He turns 80 this week, on November 22.

Let’s give him a shout-out.


  • Jean says:

    My respects. An outstanding artist and composer !
    Any other living composer writing music so full of joie de vivre?

    • Maurice Davies says:

      Yes there is. Listen to Maurice Davies’s Saxophone Sonata.The first performance is on Youtube. I wrote it for the most brilliant student I ever played for. It will never get a better performance. But is it not worthy of wider recognition and professional performances? I keep trying but – – –

      • Loetz says:

        I listened to Maurice Davies’ sonata and quite enjoyed it. My advice, be as practical as possible, transcribe it for violin and suddenly you have 10 times the potential players.

    • John Borstlap says:

      One would have to look into the field of entertainment music.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Mid century jazz, sounds to me. No different from what streams from my local jazz radio station.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    Kapustin’s works are fascinating, perhaps more so for other musicians than for casual listeners, but hugely to be enjoyed by all with curious minds. There are quite stunning recordings of his piano music by Marc-Andre Hamelin and by Steven Osborne.

  • JMW says:

    He’s a fascinating composer. A look at his scores reveals tremendous craft in addition to no small amount of originality and inspiration. My friend Eliesha Nelson recorded his Viola Sonata; Kapustin was so taken by her performance that he wrote a new work for her, the recent Sonatina for Viola.

  • Kenny says:

    Kapustin is a great composer and I see his music regularly played FAR more often than the critically lauded darlings.

  • Nick says:

    A great composer, great improviser and a phenomenal pianist himself!!

  • clarrieu says:

    “…an idiom that, while rooted in Bach, is easily mistaken for jazz”: actually, not really “mistaken” regarding this particular Prelude n.11, which pure plain jazz idiom like a pianist could improvise it. More interesting, in my opinion, when Kapustin uses this into more “classical” contexts/forms, for example Piano Etudes:
    or strings chamber works: