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Nikolai KAPUSTIN (b.1937)
Cello Sonata No.1, Op.63 (1991) [20:28]
Cello Sonata No.2, Op.84 (1997) [20:55]
Elegy, Op.96 (1999) [4:45]
Nearly Waltz, Op.98 (1999) [2:37]
Burlesque, Op.97 (1999) [3:16]
Duo Perfetto: Robert Witt (cello): Clorinda Perfetto (piano)
rec. 2016, Fazioli Concert Hall, Sacile; Forum Art Village, Rome; Vintage Studios di Franco Solinas, Sant’Antioco
BRILLIANT 95560 [52:07]

There’s never a dull moment with Kapustin’s cello sonatas. The First was composed in 1991 and premiered in Moscow in 1996 by cellist Alexander Zagorinsky and the composer. The Second Sonata was then written specifically for the cellist, and the cluster of cello works written around this time attests to the profoundly strong musical, artistic and personal bond between the two men.

The earlier sonata is cast in four movements whilst the Second makes do with just three. Those trademark Kapustin syncopations drive the piano writing in the Largo opening of No.1 and it’s the very definition of verve, all the while the cello spinning a lyric-elegiac line above. Once properly underway it’s the sheer independence of the piano’s left hand, a characteristic of his writing, that vests the music with such seemingly unstoppable energy. But then too there are romantic interludes, Rachmaninovian cum Gershwinesque songs-without-words as well as a Sarabande complete with lyric moments interspersed with a characteristic walking bass for the cello. Snazzy, jazzy Scherzi are a Kapustin calling card, as long as, as here, they have time for a ballad trio. The finale reverts to Broadway and a synergetic close.

There’s no let-up, really, in the companion sonata where Kapustin gets busy with the Boogie before strolling into a sentimental song; that can’t last, of course, and so the cello assumes the pizzicato-bass position whilst the piano dons something of Teddy Wilson’s spirit. Sassy confidence ensues. Thus, it’s fugitive lyricism and nightclub drama, cocktail hour at the keyboard and suddenly a solo Bach reference from the cellist, from the First Suite – a sudden strange moment, over in an instant, before the triumphant resolution.

The trio of morceaux make for pleasing listening. The Elegy is a yearning torch song though the piano gets some Horace Silver moments in the B section. There’s a charming self-described Nearly Waltz and a Burlesque that encapsulates all the hi-jinks, facetiousness and piano loquacity of which Kapustin is capable.

The energetic, vital and assured performances do the music proud. The recording of the two sonatas by the composer and his great champion Zagorinsky on Classical Records CR126 is, of course, important in its own right but this competitively priced disc offers up-to-date sonics and lithe interpretations.

Jonathan Woolf

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