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Jazz

Eldar Djangirov, “Breakthrough” (Motema). How one feels about child prodigies may determine how one reacts to some of highest-profile jazz discs around in the next few weeks. With an 11-year-old jazz pianist named Emily Bear about to debut on disc, the case of Eldar Djangirov may prove both instructive and heartening. Eldar Djangirov is 26 years old now but as a child prodigy in jazz, he was, at 12, the youngest pianist ever to appear on Marian McPartland’s radio show. This trio disc with bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso swings with maximum pyotechnics and prestissimo tempos to burn (which Djangirov does with joy flowing through his fingers). When saxophonist Chris Potter and vibraphonist Joe Locke join Djangirov on separate tracks, it’s burstingly apparent that he is comfortable as can be interacting on the highest level with some of the most respected musicians in jazz. Nor is he content to be known just as a jazz pianist of maximum firepower. A classical disc of Bach, Brahms and Prokofiev is about to be released in May and, while it proves – as so many discs have – that Bach always separates the great classical pianists from the digital acrobats, it also establishes Djangirov as a classical pianist of intriguing future. His present as a jazz pianist is utterly formidable and “Breakthrough” proves it all the way through.Three and a half stars. (Jeff Simon)

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Giovanni Guidi Trio,City of Broken Dreams” (ECM). Twenty-seven-year-old Italian pianist Guidi is best-known for his stints with trumpet player Enrico Rava (a featured artist in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s great Art of Jazz series). It would be all too easy to consign much of this to the sort of dreamy, spacey chamber jazz that the ECM label has seemed to turn into a kind of house music in the past four decades. It’s often a good deal better than that, revealing an enormous stylistic strength in jazz pianists from Italy that you wouldn’t expect, but with Enrico Pieranunzi, Stefano Bollano and now Guidi couldn’t be more obvious. He’s an interesting folk-influenced composer. The obvious influence of Bill Evans is heard here in the enormous amount of solo space given to bassist Thomas Morgan – most of it, thankfully, justified, which is by no means usually the case with bass solos. three stars (J.S.)

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Classical

Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Piano music performed by pianist Garrick Ohlsson (Hyperion). Here is one of the more thrilling meetings of artist and repertoire to come along in a very long while. Garrick Ohlsson, now 64, has been a pianist of the highest rank for many decades now. He’s known for his behemoth repertoire, Chopin specialty (somewhat incredibly, he recorded the complete Chopin piano music on Arabesque) and his impeccable technique in the whole prodigious world of 19th century piano repertoire. What that hasn’t meant before this truly great record is a whole 70-minute disc devoted to one of the greatest and most infuriatingly overlooked of American composers – Charles Tomlinson Griffes, born in Elmira in 1884, dead long before the age of 40 in 1920. An ecstatic and visionary combination of late Romantic and impressionist (Scriabin, 12 years older, lived only slightly longer than Griffes), Griffes wrote some of the most extraordinary piano music of 19th and early 20th century America – the “Roman Sketches” including the sulfur-burning “The White Peacock,” the big 1917-18 Piano Sonata (whose very first tempo marking is “Feroce”) his final three preludes which had to wait until 1967 to be published at all. He was, it now seems, far and away the greatest American classical composer of his era and the piano was his favored instrument. To have a pianist of Ohlsson’s scope and ability record a whole disc of it is a great musical blessing indeed. Four stars (J.S.)

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Julia Lezhneva, Alleluia, with Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini (Decca Universal). What are the odds of two recordings, released almost simultaneously, of Vivaldi’s motet “In furore iustissimae irae”? Lucy Crowe sings it in the new disc with La Nuova Musica, “Dixit Dominus.” Lezhneva, a young Russian soprano who climbed the charts in Europe recently with a Rossini album, takes pleasure in the furious, passionate music. (The text is about the wrath of God.) This disc has four motets, by Handel, Vivaldi, Porpora and Mozart, all ending in “Alleluia.” The Mozart is the “Exultate, Jubilate” ending in the great “Alleluia.” It is fascinating simply to contrast the four “Alleluias.” The Vivaldi version is the Red Priest at his best, full of flourishes, leaping lines and Vivaldi’s signature breathless strings. I had thought Lucy Crowe amazing, but Lezhneva’s singing is just as crisp and joyous. The Handel, “Saeviat Tellus Inter Rigores,” has a lot of fanfare and also interesting effects: he partners the soprano voice with flute, violin and other instruments. The slow aria, “O nox dulcis, quies serena,” is exquisite. Lezhneva’s voice, light on the vibrato, adds to its simplicity. The Handel “Alleluia” overflows with dizzying triplets, makes you feel as if you’re on the Tilt-a-Whirl. (Stick with it, the coda’s beautiful.) Nicola Porpora’s “In Caelo Stele Clare Fulgescant,” has an “Alleluia” that’s brief, brisky and chirpy, like a flock of birds. Whereas the Porpora is purported to be a world premiere – good for Lezhneva for dusting off such a delightful piece – the Mozart is of course very famous. Lezhnev enjoys its dreamy sweetness. I’ve never heard the cadenzas she sings, and they’re fun. Alas, the transition to the “Alleluia” is patchy – I fault the recording engineers, and mention it only because it is one of the great moments in music, and to goof it is a pity. Three and a half stars. (Mary Kunz Goldman)

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Handel, Dixit Dominus, Vivaldi, Dixit Dominus, performed by La Nuova Musica, Lucy Crowe, soprano, David Bates, director (Harmonia Mundi). La Nuova Musica, a group with a lot of youth and enthusiasm, audibly revels in the vividness of this music. “Dixit Dominus” is a vivid psalm, full of power and confidence. (It contains a line I have always loved: “The Lord said ... ‘Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’ ”) This passionate setting by Antonio Vivaldi was originally attributed to his contemporary Baldassare Galuppi, though listening to it, it seems to have Vivaldi written all over it. It contains passages that are a delight to hear, in particular a tiptoeing coloratura and pizzicato section about the beauties of holiness, and the charming concluding blessing. “In furore iustissimae irae” paints another Vivaldian picture of God’s wrath, this time tempered by Jesus’ love. Handel’s strenuous “Dixit Dominus” presents the other side of the Baroque coin. At the beginning, Handel adds a second “Dixit” and he gets a great chanting rhythm going with several layers of voices singing “Dixit Dixit Dominus Domino.” La Nuova Musica declares an intent to reinvigorate Renaissance and Baroque music. I would say they accomplished that here. Soprano soloist Lucy Crowe, in particular, handles the music’s demands marvelously. A video on YouTube lets you watch her in action, and you can feel her joy. Three and a half stars (M.K.G.)

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Francesco Da Milano, “Il Divino” performed by lutenist Paul O’Dette (Harmonia Mundi). Few indeed were the recitals by Andres Segovia that didn’t include one of Segovia’s magical guitar transcriptions of Milano’s 16th century lute music. But then in his era, Milano was one of the most admired musicians of the Italian Renaissance. They called him “Il Divino” (which they also called Michelangelo) and he spent much of his life as the court lutenist to various popes. (He was actually recorded to be on the business end of court praise comparing him favorably to Orpheus and Apollo. When courtiers really like you, they need pagan gods to express how much.). This full program of Milano’s music by the contemporary lutenist O’Dette abounds in the exquisite, which anyone might expect from the meeting of composer and musician. Wonderful disc. Three and a half stars (J.S.)