Wednesday 12 July 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, July 2017)

KAPUSTIN Works for Cello
SWR Music 19002 / *****

The jazz-influenced music of Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin (born 1937) is no longer a stranger in concert halls, especially his highly virtuosic piano works.  His small output of cello works has finally received their due in the very capable hands of young German cellist Christine Rauh. 

The two major works in this collection are his Second Cello Concerto (Op.103) and Second Cello Sonata (Op.84). The Concerto, premiered by Rauh in 2014, leans more to film music rather than strict jazz, with an achingly beautiful slow movement that sounds like a tribute to classic Hollywood romances. She is accompanied by the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrucken Kaiserslautern conducted by Nicholas Collon.

The Sonata, as well as shorter pieces like Elegy (Op.96), Burlesque (Op.97) and Nearly Waltz (Op.98), are partnered by Benyamin Nuss on piano. These musings sound like jazz improvisations even if the parts were meticulously scored by the composer. The cello turns accompanist in Duett for alto sax and cello (Op.99) where an irrepressible saxophonist Peter Lehel holds court. 

Two of Kapustin's Piano Etudes (Op.40) have been transcribed for cello and vibraphone, with percussionist Ni Fan in support. As an encore, Rauh and Nuss' Hommage A Kapustin is a brief and touching tribute. Here are nearly 80 minutes of highly enjoyable listening.

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