Trinity College Choir Cambridge, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Here is a disc to set the pulse racing. Nikolai Kapustin is a Russian composer who writes jazz piano music teeming with energetic spontaneity and bristling with the kind of creative immediacy one associates with improvisation (although the music is fully and meticulously written out). Kapustin is already known to the Hyperion catalogue through Steven Osborne’s trail-blazing recording of the first two Piano Sonatas and the Preludes in Jazz Style, and Marc-André Hamelin is another pianist who has for years played his music in concert. Hamelin’s legendary technical prowess and his exceptional affinity with jazz fuse to create one of the most sparkling, infectiously foot-tapping piano discs you could wish to hear.
In a recital spanning various traditional instrumental genres, Marc-André Hamelin includes two sets of studies. In terms of their stylistic breadth, formidable technical challenges and audacious invention, the Eight Concert Études (1984) hold their own against the celebrated benchmarks in the genre, from Liszt and Lyapunov to Godowsky’s re-worked Chopin. The Five Études in Different Intervals (1992) begins with a madcap study in minor seconds recalling the bouncy demeanor of Zez Confrey’s Kitten on the Keys (although here someone has dosed poor kitty with Grade A Catnip!), and ends with an octave study to end all octave studies. Throughout, Kapustin’s bottomless well of thematic resourcefulness works overtime.