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


John Zorn


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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.


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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#163481)
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There always exists the same problem with any John Zorn album as it existed few decades ago with Frank Zappa works (at least, for me). You just never know, what will you find on it. Some people hate it, but I like this feeling of unpredictability. What doesn't mean you will always win. You just must be always ready for surprise (bad or good).

Madness, Love and Mysticism could be a big surprise for unprepared listener. And, trying to be as correct as possible, I am not sure it will be a pleasant surprise in all cases.

Than, looking from the position of listener, bored to death with myriads of metal clones, neo-clones, post-rock clones, etc all around, I can say this album is great! No, it is not kind of music you are listening laying under the sun during Mediterranean holiday, and not your brutal dose of adrenalin, making a street fighter (or Che Guevara) from naturally pleasant and clever person.

The music there is chamber acoustic trio (without John Zorn as musician) , playing neo- classical music with touches of avant-garde and usual Zorn's ability to make very complex things more accessible.

Only three long (15-20 minutes long) compositions, with excellent acoustic sound of piano, cello and violin. If you want to love this music, you must try. But if you will try, this work will help you to love it! Very free-form, rhythm less and without any accessories, which could attract listener, all three compositions sound surprisingly attractive.

Great album for music lovers, searching for clever and different works (and without fear to classical music). All others possibly should avoid this album for miles.


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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#269328)
Posted Wednesday, March 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
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.


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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#567302)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2011 | Review Permalink

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