Nikolai Kapustin plays Kapustin - Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2
Classical | Nikolai Kapustin
A true musical innovator who brought jazz styles into long-established classical forms, Nikolai Kapustin is a Ukrainian-born Russian composer, who, after graduating in 1961 formed an unlikely musical formation in Soviet Russia: a jazz quintet. Formally trained as a classical pianist by a noted player and teacher of the era, Alexander Goldenweiser (who incidentally was a friend of none other than Leo Tolstoy!), Kapustin fuses his conservatoire training with a strong interest in the musical developments brought by jazz in the 20th century. Whilst still a student, he built a repuation as a jazz arranger, composer and pianist and toured extensively outside the Soviet Union with Oleg Lundstrom’s Jazz Orchestra.

Now 80 years old, Kapustin has become a prolific composer of music which inhabits the sound world of jazz improvisation, but that fits clearly into classical forms and does not feature improvisation. In Kapustin’s own words, “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 improvisation is written, of course, and they became much better; it improved them.”

In this video, we hear Kapustin playing one of his own works, Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2.