Hats off gentlemen, a genius.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I assume that if you're reading this, you're already familiar with Zorn's stuff. PLEASE, don't be put off by the fact that this CD is "chamber music" or "classical" stuff. This is an absolutely amazing recording. Stuff like this builds upon the work of geniuses such as Bartok, Ligeti, Boulez, Stockhausen, mixes it with influences from cartoon, rock, jazz etc. You get the picture. Classic Zorn ! But in my opinion, much more ambitious than other projects. This should not deter you : it ain't math or boring "scholarly" music. Much the contrary. The virtuosity and the sheer complexity of the pieces are there only to create musical bliss. The first piece (Le Mômo) is an extremely virtuosic piece for piano and violin, a "un-natural" combination which has nevertheless allowed other geniuses to create gems of aural magnificence (check out Schoenberg's "Fantasy for piano and violin" or Bartok's two Violin Sonatas). The Zorn piece doses not fade in comparison with his illustrious predecessors. Much the opposite. The second track, dedicated to Joseph Cornell, the subtle and brilliant creator of those delightful boxes, is an astonishing piece for solo cello, an instrument I personnally adore. This is way more extreme and adventurous than anything I've heard until now (plus the performance is top-notch). Track three reunites all three instruments in a wonderful trio, which will leave you gasping for more.This music is demanding, but if you're willing to put in the effort, the rewards are great. I suggest that you listen to it as if you were in a concert hall, attending a live performance. This CD is definitely not a mere aural tapistry meant to "decorate" the void while you're doing some other stuff. These are sonic masterpieces which are meant to induce esthetic bliss. But you got to listen and open your mind to it. Believe me, it's worth it. If you like Zorn, you've got an open mind anyway.Again, to those who might fear "classical" stuff, fear no more and try this one. It's mind-boggling. Zorn has definitely got a point when he stresses that "avant-garde" is a genre in itself. This CD is clearly avant-garde, not "classical", nor "experimental" nor "popular" music. John Zorn, through his various projects, and his Tzadik label, has built solid foundations which now allow him to put out such extreme masterpieces as this one. Whereas most composers have to struggle in order to get their pieces played, John Zorn has earned himself an absolute freedom to create what he wants (Zappa did the same, fueling his "serious" projects through his Rock bands, Mike Patton used FNM to bring to life outlandish projects such as Mr Bungle or Fantomas...). So this is THE REAL STUFF, composed by one of the REAL GUYS. Uncompromised artistic vision (no "style" or "genre" to stick to, no prerequisite format to respect in order to get the stuff to appeal to the "masses"). It could nevertheless be argued that this might be labeled as well, and marketed in a appropriate "niche" (which it is in a sense). Whatever. THIS IS RARE. This is the result of hard work and strong artistic integrity. Hats off, gentlemen."
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 05/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Conceivably the best of the John Zorn chamber pieces I have, "Love, Madness and Mysticism" is three compositions featuring Stephen Drury (piano), Jennifer Choi (violin) and Erik Friedlander (cello).
The first, "Le Momo", for piano and violin, is a stunning, aggressive piece. Largely driven by the piano, it has a sort of minimalist Cecil Taylor feel to it-- splattered piano lines, largely single note runs, rush throughout, building in tempo before holding back again. Over this, Choi plays aggressive, largely arco lines providing a countervoice to the piano, seemingly pushing from the lead. The piece is foreboding, and has a feeling of haunting further augmented by just amazing playing.
"Untitled", for solo cello, is an opportunity to show of the virtuoso skills of Erik Friedlander. Zorn states that he composes for his musicians, and there may be very little else to say about this one-- Friedlander possesses a deft cunning on his instrument, which Zorn takes full advantage of-- subtlety intermixes with just stunning displays of skill throughout, cementing my belief that Erik Friedlander is perhaps the most talented cellist alive today.
The set closer, "Amor Fou", brings together all three musicians. A piece about obsessive love, it builds in some blocks, cascading then falling again, maintaining a pretty much endless mood of haunting. Whenever it threatens to become tedious, the composition deftly changes direction, be it a simple pizzicato swipe across the violin strings echoed by piano or a total feel change, to maintain interest.
This is a superb collection of pieces, recommended for fans of challenging music of all genres."
Rewarding post-modernist classical excellence.
Lord Chimp | Monkey World | 10/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You might associate John Zorn with the evil-hyper genre-hopping of Naked City, the free-jazz/grindcore of PainKiller, the controlled anarchy of his Game Pieces, soundtracks for Japanese S&M movies, charming cartoon music, unclassifiable treasures from the Music Romance series, or the prolific jazz quartet Masada. A lot of people aren't really aware that he has delved into classical music, resulting in some of his most best work._Madness, Love and Mysticism_ is three chamber pieces that will challenge listeners and musicians of all sorts. While others may disagree, I find this to be one of the best discs in my growing Zorn collection (around 20 albums now, I guess). Let me first say that this is *extremely* challenging music. It's not difficult in the way "Cycles du Nord" (his composition for wind machines and acoustic feedback systems) is difficult -- it is difficult a la "Momento Mori" (one of his string quartets) because it is hard to find the right perspective with which to listen to it, and thus hard to get "caught up" in the music. It can be frustrating at first since its depth may appear to be illusory. "What is this, wahhhh!!!" Out of the last 1000 albums I listened to, this is one of the most demanding of the listener. Honestly I'm not always in the proper state of mental preparedness to listen to it without getting lost. It's music you must focus intensely on, but this is difficult because it is so complex and baffling.The first piece is "Le Mômo", for violin (Jennifer Choi) and piano (Stephen Drury). Zorn says this is some of the "most rigorously organized" he's ever written. It is also some of the most challenging. At first it mostly comes across as an atonal splatter of ideas. The most you listen to it, however, the more you discern repeated tonal themes, although appearing in myriad different ways. It is an extreme test of virtuosity -- the musicians here will have you possessed. This is one of Zorn's most aggressive and difficult works, yet it is proportionally rewarding. The ending will leave you breathless. Right now I think it's my favorite one. "Untitled" is a highly virtuoso piece for solo cello, played by Eric Friedlander. This is a phenomenal composition and performance, and one of my favorite Zorn pieces. He explores the tonal extremes of the instrument with dark beauty and atonal delirium, summoning up an obsessive loneliness cast in stone. "Amour Fou" brings all three performers together for a piece about "obsessive love, mad love, doomed love." If you listen to it with that frame of mind, it's quite fascinating. The violin and cello engage in torrid dialogue and additional emotional subtexts are created by Drury's piano. It is usually chromatic and dissonant and can instill a frightening claustrophobia, but there is some beautiful moments of traditional tonality. There is one part that reminds me of Chopin and a few parts with really celestial-sounding chords based on an interval of a fourth. And, as is usually the case with Zorn, he always seems able to inject some degree of rousing sensuality into his music, no matter WHAT it is (well, not ALL the time... for example, "Rend Fou" by Naked City isn't very sensual -- there's something very frightening about that song). I'm still trying to piece it all together, but I haven't had it for very long. Having extensive knowledge of music theory would aid in one's enjoyment of this music. However, it is not necessary, since the power of the music can sweep you up by itself if you lose yourself in it. I recommend it, but be aware that it's very formidable."