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Cook
American Record Guide, August 2008

Kapustin worked with progressive jazz bands in Russia, and the decidedly American influence saturates Kapustin’s musical syntax.

Texas pianist John Salmon (b. 1954) may have accomplished for Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) what Leonard Pennario did for Louis Moreau Gottschalk a generation ago, namely, “discovered” him. A proficient pianist himself, Kapustin had studied with Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory. The Piano Sonata included in this group of compositions takes its title from Beethoven’s Op. 27, No. 2, only in reverse, punctuated at every turn by jazz influences; so that we consistently feel as though some classical pianist – say Friedrich Gulda – were enjoying a sudden jam session with Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson. It appears that Kapustin did work with progressive jazz bands in Russia, and the decidedly American influence – bluesy, syncopated, driving, often polytonal – saturates Kapustin’s musical syntax.

The curious combination of classical procedures and jazzy, hip sounds takes us to The Half Note in New York City, a real “club” sonority that Salmon’s right hand whips out in runs while the left has the bumping ostinati familiar to the blues from Brubeck to Milt Jackson. The Preludes exemplify the hovering presence of George Gershwin’s idea of “prelude” as a cross-over phenomenon. If the G-flat rips quickly, the F Minor jaunts along in a stride fashion close to Peterson and Garner, with a taste of Joplin. That Kapustin can absorb serialism into his style bursts forth in the Etude No. 5, boogie-woogie fertilized by swirling, disjunct octaves in the right hand. If there is a “Russian” strain in this music, it lies in the grand line and occasional melancholy that might be Medtner or Scriabin; otherwise, it all plays like sophisticated blues and even soul – experimental, like Keith Jarrett, some of Bill Evans, and vibes from barrelhouse honky-tonk. The Etude No. 7 “Intermezzo” begins like a Tatum stride, then it gathers a swirling complexity that Busoni and his acolytes could admire.

The three Bagatelles share a slower tempo than the Etudes, more Count Basie and moments of Duke Ellington than furioso Keith Jarrett. No. 2 has a dry sonority, rather spare and pointillistic; but then the right hand will occasionally skim a glistening run along the top. Herbie Hancock might have dictated Bagatelle No. 8, the chords and grace notes studied and modal, as though Maurice Ravel and Leonard Bernstein were not too far way. Salmon ends with a blistering Scherzo – a toccata really--from the Sonata No. 2, wherein any number of pounding of the D  in 12/8 time gets our blood pumping and jumping, likely in anticipation of another volume of this wild composer.

The recording, made at Organ Hall, School of Music, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, 12 March, 7 May, 27 August, and 17 September 2006, has been expertly engineered by producer Bobby Gage.



Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, August 2008

So far this decade, the Ukrainian-born master of Russian jazz, Nikolai Kapustin, has stimulated both Steven Osborne and Marc-André Hamelin to devote entire discs (Hyperion 67159 and 67433, respectively) to his fascinating piano music. With this Naxos release, the brilliant pianist John Salmon steps up to the plate with virtuosic performances of Kapustin's Piano Sonata No. 15 "Fantasia quasi Sonata", the Scherzo from the Piano Sonata No.2, op 54, and handfuls each of preludes, etudes, and bagatelles. In Salmon, who has recorded a substantial amount of Brubeck for Naxos, Kapustin may have met his ideal interpreter.

…Salmon approaches the manifold challenges of Kapustin's often-intricate keyboard-writing sympathetically, with a fierce technical arsenal at his disposal. His playing exhibits tremendous energy, textural clarity, and an unambiguous point of view. For my taste, microphones were placed a hair too near the piano, but this minor quibble did not prevent my listening to this disc repeatedly, with increasing pleasure. Salmon's own notes on the pieces are as personal as they are informative. Warmly recommended.




Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, July 2008

Kapustin worked with progressive jazz bands in Russia, and the decidedly American influence saturates Kapustin’s musical syntax.

Texas pianist John Salmon (b. 1954) may have accomplished for Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) what Leonard Pennario did for Louis Moreau Gottschalk a generation ago, namely, “discovered” him. A proficient pianist himself, Kapustin had studied with Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory. The Piano Sonata included in this group of compositions takes its title from Beethoven’s Op. 27, No. 2, only in reverse, punctuated at every turn by jazz influences; so that we consistently feel as though some classical pianist – say Friedrich Gulda – were enjoying a sudden jam session with Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson. It appears that Kapustin did work with progressive jazz bands in Russia, and the decidedly American influence – bluesy, syncopated, driving, often polytonal – saturates Kapustin’s musical syntax.

The curious combination of classical procedures and jazzy, hip sounds takes us to The Half Note in New York City, a real “club” sonority that Salmon’s right hand whips out in runs while the left has the bumping ostinati familiar to the blues from Brubeck to Milt Jackson. The Preludes exemplify the hovering presence of George Gershwin’s idea of “prelude” as a cross-over phenomenon. If the G-flat rips quickly, the F Minor jaunts along in a stride fashion close to Peterson and Garner, with a taste of Joplin. That Kapustin can absorb serialism into his style bursts forth in the Etude No. 5, boogie-woogie fertilized by swirling, disjunct octaves in the right hand. If there is a “Russian” strain in this music, it lies in the grand line and occasional melancholy that might be Medtner or Scriabin; otherwise, it all plays like sophisticated blues and even soul – experimental, like Keith Jarrett, some of Bill Evans, and vibes from barrelhouse honky-tonk. The Etude No. 7 “Intermezzo” begins like a Tatum stride, then it gathers a swirling complexity that Busoni and his acolytes could admire.

The three Bagatelles share a slower tempo than the Etudes, more Count Basie and moments of Duke Ellington than furioso Keith Jarrett. No. 2 has a dry sonority, rather spare and pointillistic; but then the right hand will occasionally skim a glistening run along the top. Herbie Hancock might have dictated Bagatelle No. 8, the chords and grace notes studied and modal, as though Maurice Ravel and Leonard Bernstein were not too far way. Salmon ends with a blistering Scherzo – a toccata really--from the Sonata No. 2, wherein any number of pounding of the D  in 12/8 time gets our blood pumping and jumping, likely in anticipation of another volume of this wild composer.

The recording, made at Organ Hall, School of Music, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, 12 March, 7 May, 27 August, and 17 September 2006, has been expertly engineered by producer Bobby Gage.






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2:28:53 PM, 24 April 2014
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