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At age of 14 he moved to Moscow and started lessons with Avrelian Rubakh, himself a pupil of Felix Blumenfeld who also taught Simon Barere and Vladimir Horowitz. Later he studied with pedagogue professor Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory, who also told him about Rachmaninov, Medtner, Scriabin and Tchaikovsky whom Goldenweiser knew personally.
Nikolai Kapustin is an autodidact on composing; he made his first attempt to compose a piano sonata at age of 13. During his conservatory time he composed and played his Op. 1; a Concertino for piano and orchestra. The Op.1 was a jazz piece and turned out to be his first work performed publicly (1957). He also had his own quintet and was a member of Yuri Saulsky’s Big Band.
After graduating in 1961 at the Moscow Conservatory, he became a member of the Oleg Lundstrem Big Band. Several works of his are performed by Oleg Lundstrem, this with Nikolai Kapustin himself on piano. Around 1972 he stopped working with them and started working with the radio orchestra (5 years), then with the cinema orchestra (7 years). Early 80’s he started fulltime as composer.
Nikolai Kapustin turned out to be a classical composer who happens to work in a jazz idiom. He fuses these influences in his compositions, using jazz idioms in formal classical structures. An example of this is his Suite in the Old Style, Op. 28, written in 1977, which inhabits the sound world of jazz but is modelled on baroque suites such as the keyboard partitas composed by J. S. Bach, each movement being a stylized dance or a pair of dances in strict binary form. Other examples of this fusion are his set of 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 82, written in 1997, and the Op. 100 Sonatina.
Several of his works are released on the Russian Melodiya label and the Japanese Triton label, this with Nikolai Kapustin on piano. Several other recordings exist of Nikolai Kapustin, these are unreleased, but ‘rescued’ by his son, theoretical physicist Anton Kapustin.
His music is performed by leading pianists like Marc-André Hamelin, Steven Osborne, Alexei Volodin, Ludmil Angelov, Masahiro Kawakami, Nikolai Petrov and Vadim Rudenko; as well by cellists Eckard Runge and Enrico Dindo. Other performers are the Ahn Trio, Trio Arbós, Artemis Quartet and the New Russian Quartet.
Among his works, 154 compositions to date, are 20 piano sonatas, six piano concertos, piano works for solo piano and for 4 hands, as well for 2 pianos, a violin concerto, two cello concertos, piano trios, string quartets, a piano quintet and a significant number of other chamber works, as well as compositions for orchestra and big band.
This biography is authorized by Nikolai Kapustin (January 2014).
Daniele Trucco, Nikolai Kapustin: metrica barbara, in «Amadeus», n. 292, marzo 2014, pp. 46-47.
- Information about composer Nikolai Kapustin including a discography and alerts about new recordings and print publications
- Nikolai Kapustin, compiled by Onno van Rijen
- Authorized Nikolai Kapustin website by Wimmo: nikolai-kapustin.info.
- MusT, publishers of Nikolai Kapustin's music
- Nikolai Kapustin's orchestral works from 60's and 70's, compiled by Anton Kapustin
- Paper on classical and jazz influences in Kapustin's Twenty-four Preludes Op. 53 by Randy Creighton
- Paper on Kapustin's symbiotic music by Jonathan Edward Mann
- Nikolai Kapustin, Piano Music, Vol. 1, liner notes