Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 10
The best performances of Nikolai Kapustin’s through-composed jazz-influenced works come from that rare breed of pianists who possess both a transcendental classical technique and a feel for jazz time keeping. Yeol Eum Son is one of those pianists.
She swings like mad in the Op. 40 Etudes’ first and final selections, nailing the syncopated accents and runs with a centered deftness that Oscar Peterson would have envied. By taking the opening section of the wonderful Variations Op. 41 a bit slower than in the recordings by Marc-André Hamelin and the composer himself, Son gives the music an attractive behind-the-beat lope that is similar to Erroll Garner’s signature style. At the same time, Son’s overall sensitivity and luscious tone ideally suit lyrical works such as Moon Rainbow, which is Kapustin’s final composition.
Although she broaches the Second sonata’s driving rhythms with a relatively heavy tread compared to Steven Osborne’s lighter and brisker interpretation, she effortlessly sails through the Scherzo and the playful, over the top Perpetuum Mobile finale. Small wonder that Kapustin himself encouraged Son’s advocacy. A delectable and sonically superb addition to the Kapustin discography.
Reference Recording: Sonata No. 2: Osborne (Hyperion), Variations Op. 41: Kapustin (Boheme), Eight Concert Etudes Op. 40: Hamelin (Hyperion)