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John Zorn - Madness, Love And Mysticism CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.84 | 10 ratings

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4 stars Rating: A-

John Zorn has done it all, from surf rock to klezmer to metal to free jazz to classical to noise. In every area, he has excelled, producing a litany of amazing CDs over his long career. While critics often accuse him of merely "dabbling" in classical music, Madness, Love, and Mysticism proves otherwise as the absolute pinnacle of his classical music. Three monstrous compositions form this entity, exploring the boundaries of dissonance with an intellectual bent and compositional rigor that makes Zorn so endearing. Of course, it doesn't lack anything from an emotional standpoint: each of the three compositions is stuffed with tension. At any moment, each feels as if it could explode, and each does numerous times.

While I generally abhor track by track reviews, this CD truly deserves one given the magnitude of each of the three compositions. Opening with "Le Momo," Madness, Love, and Mysticism doesn't wait an instant making itself known, opening with crashing piano that immediately proves that this CD won't be an easy listen, yet also simultaneously showing just how delicately intense it will be. The tension never goes away, as piercing violin lines mingle with dissonant piano chords to create a heavy, dark atmosphere. It starts and stops abruptly, but it never loses its tremendous flow. Indeed, part of the magic of the piece is that, despite its jarring nature, it never feels like it was just slapped together. Instead, it oozes attention to detail. Every note feels perfectly planned, and the result is a masterpiece of an opener.

It doesn't let up from there, as the following, untitled piece showcases yet another side of Zorn. "Untitled" is a piece for solo cello, and it's rather more delicate than its predecessor, though no less intense. Utilizing the full range of the cello, Zorn moves through long, sensual tones to impossibly swift, piercing runs to jarring plucks. Like with "Le Momo", the placement of every note makes sense in the grand scheme of the piece, rather than sounding like it was thrown in as a placeholder or just for immediate effect. "Untitled" is a quiet piece, but it never gets boring as it proceeds. It's probably my least favorite on Madness, Love, and Mysticism, if only because I love the way Zorn is able to play instruments off of one another as he does in "Le Momo" and "Amour Fou". That is lost in this solo instrument setting, but that doesn't change the fact that, of all his pieces for solo instruments (there are quite a lot, ranging from violin to drums), this is probably the best.

After two amazing compositions, John Zorn can only go downhill, right? Well, no. "Amour Fou" is easily John Zorn's greatest piece of classical music, a twenty-minute slice of delicate beauty and tragic agony. It's similar in many ways to "Le Momo", but it goes far beyond the range of the CD's opener. There's not much more to say, as it's built around the same key elements as "Le Momo". This is the very apex of John Zorn's classical leanings, showing why he is so well-regarded for his compositional ability. He pays tremendous attention to detail and recruits virtuosos to perform his music, and the result is music that truly feels flawless. Although I don't quite think that Madness, Love, and Mysticism is flawless, it does contain (to steal a phrase from the allmusicguide's review of Zorn's Angelus Novus) an aura of "crystalline perfection." Madness, Love, and Mysticism easily ranks among Zorn's best works, up with Naked City and Spillane as one of his most essential releases. Given that Zorn has over 100 releases and the majority of them are very good or better, that truly means something.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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