KAPUSTIN: Flute Sonata, Op. 125. Divertissement.1, 2 A Little Duo.3 Trio, Op. 862 / Immanuel Davis, 1Adam Kuenzel, fl; 2Pitnarry Shin, 3Käthe Jarka, cel; Timothy Lovelace, pno / Naxos 8.579024
As an avid fan of Nikolai Kapustin’s music, I looked forward eagerly to this release. His use of jazz rhythms within classical forms appeal to me greatly, and I’ve generally loved almost everything he’s ever written.
Yet although flautist Immanuel Davis has no problem playing with a strong jazz rhythm, pianist Timothy Lovelace seems locked into a stiffer, more ragtime-like beat. His playing of Kapustin’s rhythms is more “regular” and does not swing, but rather produces a rather regular, “punchy” style at the keyboard. This does not inhibit Davis’ playing, but with a more jazz-oriented accompanist (Aruán Ortiz or Bruce Wolosoff would be ideal) the music would go with a better rhythmic feel.
Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to hear Davis flying through the Flute Sonata. Think of it as being like Paul Horn playing with Liberace instead of Oscar Peterson and you’ll have some idea of what I mean. Lovelace is still thinking in terms of syncopated classical music such as George Gershwin. He walks through the music, and does so very ably, but Davis is trying to fly. For comparison, listen to flautist Jenny Lehtonen with pianist Sanghie Lee on YouTube. Lehtonen is not quite as good in swinging as Davis, but Lee is much looser than Lovelace.
Happily, in the Divertissement Davis is partnered by flautist Adam Kuenzel and cellist Pitnarry Shin, who are very good rhythmically, and they prod Lovelace into being a little looser rhythmically. In the second movement fugue, Shin’s pizzicato cello almost sounds a bit like a jazz bass, but even more so in his ruggedly bowed passages. Lovelace seems to catch the feeling of the music much better here. The whole group does a nice job of swinging in the lively finale, particularly the swinging, medium-tempo middle section which sounds for all the world like Horn and Fred Katz playing with the Chico Hamilton group back in the 1950 before morphing into a waltz!
This is the first recording of A Little Duo for flute and cello. It’s a fun little piece, less than 6 ½ minutes long, and played very well by Davis if, here, a little stiffly by cellist Käthe Jarka. One of its charms is the later melody that seems to run backwards rhythmically before straightening itself out again.
The Trio is a famous piece, recorded in an arrangement for piano trio by Trio Arbós. Here we get the original instrumentation of flute-piano-cello. Once again, Davis and Shin prod Lovelace into more energetic and really jazzy playing; indeed, Lovelace sounds like a different pianist altogether in this work. Just listen to the interaction of the three musicians at around the two-minute mark in the first movement. In the third movement, unfortunately, Lovelace returns to his stiff playing of the rhythm, though Davis and Shin manage to work around it.
Mostly, then, this recording is excellent despite my reservations about Lovelace’s playing in the Sonata.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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