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

MADNESS, LOVE AND MYSTICISM

John Zorn

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.56 | 8 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars John Zorn: Madness, Love, and Mysticism [2001]

Rating: 6/10

Madness, Love, and Mysticism is yet another album of contemporary chamber music by the illustrious John Zorn. During the late 90s, Zorn had been adding increasing amounts of pomp and bombast to his classical releases. Most of his earlier work was focused within the realm of subtle small-scale chamber music, but those years showed him gradually gravitating towards full-blown orchestral arrangements. This could have been a result of increased financial independence, or it could have been a purely artistic choice; I don't know. What I do know, however, is that Zorn's music doesn't work as well within the context of large orchestral ensembles. Thus, I immediately had high hopes for Madness, Love, and Mysticism due to the fact that it features only three musicians. My hopes were not misplaced, because this has been one of the most satisfying classical Zorn albums that I've come across so far. It features of some his greatest chamber music. However, it also features some sub-par material that brings the album down.

"Le Momo" is one of Zorn's strongest classical compositions. It's a duet with absolutely insane musicianship from pianist Steven Drury and violinist Jennifer Choi. This has to be some of the best piano playing I've ever heard. Although this is a very chaotic piece, there is a sense of continuity that ties the two instrumental parts together. The untitled second piece is a bit of a step down, but not by too much. This is a solo cello piece performed by Zorn veteran Erik Friedlander. It's a good track, but it's a bit inconsistent; I feel like a few minutes could have been trimmed off of its 15-minute run-time. The 20-minute "Amour Fou" is the piece that really brings the album down. This piano/cello/violin trio composition falls victim to the overzealous avant-grade tendencies that so often plague Zorn's classical works. This is upsetting, because there are moments here that are quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, they are bogged down by needlessly directionless passages.

I was intensely debating with myself about giving Madness, Love, and Mysticism a rating of a 6 or a 7. I went with a 6 in the end because I feel that this album could have been so much better. There is a distinct atmosphere to all of these pieces, and the musicianship is nothing short of incredible (especially from Steven Drury). However, these 52 minutes contain too many unnecessary bits of flotsam to allow for all-out excellence. This is a very good slab of avant-garde classical music, but it could have been so much more. Regardless, I would still recommend it to fans of avant-garde music, as well as to piano aficionados. Tread lightly, however.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |

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