Hyperion Records

Variations, Op 41
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The Variations, Op 41 (1984) encompass Kapustin’s style in microcosm. A brief introduction leads into a thirty-two-bar theme in D flat major that moves between a jazzed-up rendition of the solo bassoon motive that opens Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps (‘the rite of swing’, if you will!) and a descending, bluesy gesture. Kapustin subjects the Stravinsky-derived theme to subtle rhythmic displacements within and over the barlines. The steady medium swing tempo is implied more than overtly stated. In the first variation the right hand’s fragmented lines and aphoristic, Count Basie-like chordal punctuations are in constant dialogue with the left hand’s walking and talking bass rejoinders. There are also anchoring moments of steady chordal ‘comping’ that support longer lines in both hands. The steady stream of right-hand semiquavers concluding this variation dovetail into the next one, building up to some grandly swinging, full-bodied piano writing that Erroll Garner would recognize as his own. An eleven-bar interlude with darting, be-boppish lines over a walking bass sets the stage for a change of key and a quick, skittish variation in 3/4 time. All this activity winds down in another transition, this time introducing a Larghetto minor-key variation evoking Kapustin’s Russian romantic pedigree, capped by a brief cadenza that plunges right into the concluding Presto: a rollicking pair of variations jam-packed with quicksilver passagework and scintillating stride piano.

from notes by Jed Distler © 2004

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