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Kapustin Étude in 3rds and 6ths op68 no3

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Published on May 1, 2012

Nikolai Kapustin - Étude no3 in thirds and sixths
from 5 Études in Different Intervals op68 (1992)

Thomas Ang, piano

This particular set of exercises has a very obvious precedent in Scriabin's own late op65 set - and in both this and the Scriabin set the composers set down distillations of their style at the point in time. This belongs to Kapustin's middle period, being contemporaneous with works such as the Violin Sonata op70 and the 3 Impromptus op66. They demonstrate a break away from the big-band colour of the earlier works, yet have less of the dissonances of the more recent period.

The 3rd étude presents a simple theme, itself a melody constructed of thirds, and subjects it to relentless rhythmic variation. This is a process carried on throughout, both in accompaniment and theme, and adds to the metric flavour of a certain instability. Delightful moments abound: the left-hand melody supported by a chain of thirds in the right hand, the numerous tonal transitions, and the extremely "cute" ending of the coda.

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Nikolai Kapustin was born in Gorlovka in the Ukraine in 1937. While studying at the Moscow Conservatory, he was a pupil of Alexander Goldenweiser, and is thus familiar with the late-Romantic and virtuoso piano traditions. In the 1950s he gradually became known as a jazz pianist, and made recordings with Oleg Lundstrem's Jazz Orchestra (recordings of which can be found on YouTube). Active as a composer since about mid-20th century, he has only come into the Western spotlight after the turn of this century.

His music is filled with a tension generated from the polarity between the classical and jazz traditions, more easily seen in his easier works, especially in the formal structure of the Sonata-Fantasia (Sonata no1) op39, written the year before the Concert Études. The jazz style filling his writings is influenced by Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea, while the pianistic demands belong up there with Scriabin and Rachmaninov in their figurational complexity and movement. Recent works have explored more quickly shifting tonal regions, at some points even reaching a sense of rootlessness in its unwavering chromaticism - for example, in the opuses for piano 111-128 and the Second String Quartet op132.

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