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A Bu’s Debut: Potential For Greatness

Jed Distler

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

Born in Beijing in 1999, pianist and composer A Bu models his work after the late Nikolai Kapustin, whose compositions fuse jazz idioms and classical forms. Although A Bu’s four-movement Piano Sonata No. 1, composed in memory of Kapustin and his wife, is occasionally cliché-ridden (the derivative melodies, the reliance on glissandos to make dramatic points), the music flows easily and sincerely. If anything, the Fantasie’s harmonic sophistication and lyrical qualities evoke more of Stephen Sondheim’s sound world than Kapustin’s. One assumes that A Bu interprets his own music as he wishes it to go.

In his booklet notes, A Bu writes that Kapustin enjoyed his performance of the Variations Op. 41. Certainly the young pianist plays the scurrying final variation with impressive lightness and dexterity, but his square and rhythmically stiff execution elsewhere falls short of the composer’s own recorded performance, not to mention Marc-André Hamelin’s standard-setting reference version. The same holds true for the faster of the Concert Studies, of which only the final selection truly scintillates. By contrast, A Bu revels in the fifth study’s hard driving boogie-woogie patterns, while shaping No. 2’s shimmering broken chords and No. 5’s sweeping arpeggios sensitively.

In all, an arguably premature disc debut, yet there’s no questioning A Bu’s immense musical gifts, which I hope he will develop, refine, and deepen over time. He has the potential for greatness.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: New Memories
Reference Recording: Kapustin Variations & Etudes: Hamelin (Hyperion); Kapustin (Boheme)

  • KAPUSTIN, NIKOLAI:
    Variations for Piano Op. 41; Eight Concert Studies Op. 40
  • A BU:
    Fantasie “Sleeping in a Dream” Op. 7; Piano Sonata No. 1 “Pinus”

    Soloists: A Bu (piano)

  • Record Label: Wergo - 7405 2
  • Medium: CD

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