Nikolai Kapustin

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Nikolai Kapustin
Николай Гиршевич Капустин
Nikolai Girshevich Kapustin

(1937-11-22)22 November 1937
Died2 July 2020(2020-07-02) (aged 82)
EducationMoscow Conservatory
  • Pianist
  • Composer
WorksList of compositions
ChildrenAnton Kapustin

Nikolai Girshevich Kapustin (Russian: Никола́й Ги́ршевич Капу́стин Russian pronunciation: [kɐˈpustʲɪn]; 22 November 1937 – 2 July 2020) was a Soviet[1][2] composer and pianist of Russian-Jewish descent.[2] He played with early Soviet jazz bands such as the Oleg Lundstrem Orchestra. In his compositions, mostly for piano, he used a fusion of jazz and classical forms. He and other pianists recorded his works.

Early life[edit]

Kapustin was born in Horlivka, Ukraine.[3][4] When he was age four, with his father fighting in World War II, his mother and grandmother moved with him and his sister to the Kyrgyz city of Tokmak.[5] He composed his first piano sonata at age 13.[3] From age 14, Kapustin studied piano with Avrelian Rubakh[5] (a pupil of Felix Blumenfeld, who also taught Simon Barere and Vladimir Horowitz). Beginning in 1954, he discovered jazz, an interest which his teacher supported.[5] Kapustin studied from 1956 with Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1961.[4] He included Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 in his graduation recital.[5]


During the 1950s, Kapustin acquired a reputation as a jazz pianist, arranger and composer. He had his own quintet, which performed at an "upscale restaurant" monthly.[5] He played as a member of Yury Saulsky's big band and later in the Oleg Lundstrem Orchestra.[3] In his compositions, he fused the traditions of both classical piano repertoire and improvisational jazz, combining jazz idioms and classical music structures.[6][7][8] His Suite in the Old Style, Op. 28, written in 1977, sounds like jazz improvisation but is modeled after Baroque suites such as Johann Sebastian Bach's keyboard partitas. Other examples of his fusion music are 24 Preludes in Jazz Style, Op. 53,[9] 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 82, written in 1997, and the Sonatina, Op. 100.[3]

Kapustin regarded himself as a composer rather than a jazz musician: "I was never a jazz musician. I never tried to be a real jazz pianist, but I had to do it because of the composing. I'm not interested in improvisation – and what is a jazz musician without improvisation? All my improvisations are written, of course, and they became much better; it improved them."[10]

Among his works are 20 piano sonatas, six piano concertos, other instrumental concertos, sets of piano variations, études and concert studies.[3]

Record labels have released several recordings of the composer performing his own music.[9] His music has been played by leading pianists including Ludmil Angelov [bg], Marc-André Hamelin, Frank Dupee [de], Masahiro Kawakami [jp], Thomas Ang,[11] Nikolai Petrov,[3] Steven Osborne,[9] Yeol Eum Son and Vadim Rudenko, and by cellists such as Enrico Dindo [it] and Eckart Runge [de].[3]

Personal life[edit]

Kapustin had two sons, one of whom is Anton Kapustin, a theoretical physicist.[12]


Kapustin died on July 2, 2020 in Moscow.[13] He was 82 years old.[14][15]


  1. ^ Martin, Anderson. "Obit Nikolai Kapustin". Toccata Classics. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Nikolai Kapustin". Anton Kapustin. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Nikolai Kapustin". Schott Music. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b De'Ath, Leslie (June 2002). "Nikolai Kapustin - A Performer's Perspective". Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bose, Sudip (12 April 2018). "Crossing Over / The Art of Nikolai Kapustin". Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  6. ^ Creighton, Randall J. (2009). A Man of Worlds: Classical and Jazz Influences in Nikolai Kapustin's Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 53 (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Arizona.
  7. ^ Mann, Jonathan Edward (19 May 2007). Red, White, and Blue Notes: The Symbiotic Music of Nikolai Kapustin.
  8. ^ Truco, Daniele (March 2014). "Nikolai Kapustin: metrica barbara". Amadeus (292): 46–47.
  9. ^ a b c Osborne, Steven (2000). "Nikolai Kapustin / Piano Music, Vol. 1". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  10. ^ Anderson, Martin (September 2000). "Nikolai Kapustin, Ukrainian composer of classical jazz". Fanfare: 93–97.
  11. ^ "The Music of Nikolai Kapustin – Thomas Ang". 3 February 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Nikolai Kapustin". Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Home of Nikolai Kapustin | Pianist & Composer". Archived from the original on 4 July 2020.
  14. ^ Nikolai Kapustin Official website
  15. ^ [1] Obituary

External links[edit]