Following early interpretations of the music of Béla Bartók and Federico Mompou, pianist Richie Beirach is once again joined by violinist Gregor Huebner and bassist George Mraz for a series of stunning interpretations of classical music, though most of this CD is devoted to the compositions of early Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi. The mournful opener, Lamento d'Arianna, is the only remaining fragment of Monteverdi's lost opera Arianna. Beirach opens Don Carlo Gesualdo's Responsorium No. 5 (from his Sabato Sancto) alone, then ducks out as the bowed strings work their magic. Palestrina's Chant opens elegantly, then Mraz switches to a pizzicato line, with Huebner gradually making his way from the outer fringes, with Beirach eventually adding a passionate improvisation. Beirach's moving improvisation of Monteverdi's Orfeos Lament is spacious, followed by a brief fantasy upon the theme featuring wild pizzicato violin and occasionally hand-muted piano in an intense setting. Mraz, who assisted Beirach and Huebner with their arrangements, is solely responsible for Fantasy on Fili Mi, Absalon, a composition by Heinrich Schütz. Rarely heard unaccompanied on bass, Mraz makes the most of this opportunity with a powerful effort. No exploration of Baroque music is complete with venturing into the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, and Mraz's solo improvised introduction to Siciliano is every bit as powerful. He accompanies Beirach's brilliant improvisation, though the theme is never stated until Huebner joins in, taking the music down paths its composer could have never imagined. This outstanding release will cause more than a few jazz fans to search out classical recordings of these timeless works if they aren't already familiar with them.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden