Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recognized as a major influential figure in contemporary jazz and the avant-garde, the American composer John Zorn is characterized by his refusal of stereotypes and his radical musical experiments. His chamber music is the focus of the latest recording by the award-winning Molinari Quartet. “It is with great enthusiasm that we dive into the fantastic and fascinating world of John Zorn. His music is powerful, emotional, and colorful”, says Olga Ranzenhofer, first violin. The ensemble has selected four of Zorn’s chamber works for this recording: cat o’ nine tails, the dead man, memento mori and kol nidre.
Whereas the earlier quartets are not free of the suspicion that they may be shocking for its own sake, as much conceptual art as musical, in this piece the microtones, extended effects and juxtaposition of wild contrasts seems to be at the service of a narrative, perhaps with some autobiographical intent. The work is intense and unremittingly dark, with pivotal silences and one extended dissonant tonal chord forming a kind of emotional fulcrum. Kol Nidre stands in complete contrast to the other quartets; it has something of the mood of the Yom Kippur chant, and largely avoids dissonance and eschews shock tactics altogether. Not the first time Zorn has explored his Jewish heritage, Kol Nidre sounds like a genuine spiritual meditation of considerable depth.
– Records International
Momento Mori is presented as an emotional autobiography composed in 1992 and is dedicated to Zorn’s longtime collaborator Ikue Mori. At 27 minutes it is by far the most substantial work on offer here. While it too juxtaposes a plethora of moods, from meditative repose to extraordinary tension, there is none of the comic flamboyance of the preceding tracks. The final work, Kol Nidre, was written “in a single 30-minute burst of inspiration” according to Zorn, and Ranzenhofer says it “uses music stripped of all impure sonorities to reveal a world of inner peace.” For its seven-minute duration we are drawn into an almost medieval stasis of entirely tonal, gentle unison melody more suggestive of Arvo Pärt, or Shostakovich in his more contemplative moments, than the Zorn of the earlier works. Throughout the disc the Molinaris are superb, finding just the right balance between abrasive exuberance, virtuosic hilarity, quiet desperation and haunting beauty as required.
– The Whole Note (CA)