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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

John Zorn - Lemma (Tzadik, 2013) ***½

By Martin Schray

Although John Zorn has been widely acclaimed for his music, his compositions in the field of new classical music deserve more attention. Lemma is another album on which he presents music for strings, it consists of compositions for violin(s).

The first part of the album, "Apophthegms", is an enigmatic duo suite of 12 miniatures for two violins (David Fulmer and Chris Otto) and displays everything that is taken on later on the album: romantic allusions, Schönberg, Webern, and Cage as main influences. The interplay between the two musicians is absolutely flawless and elegant, they complement each other excellently.

The second piece is a solo violin composition called "Passagen" (the German word for passages), which features Pauline Kim. It is based on the legendary B-A-C-H motif (something which was recently important on “Das Wohltemperierte Spunk” as well) and it is the highlight of the album. Kim is an extraordinary musician who is able to transfer Zorn’s arpeggios, snap sounds, sharp, hard pizzicatos, wild glissandi, sudden stops, elegant runs, tender melodies, the reminiscences to Paganini or Schnittke  on the one hand and the Naked City collage approach on the other hand into a fireworks of everything this music has to offer.

The third part, "Ceremonial Magic", consists of four pieces starring David Fulmer. It has allegedly been recorded for the “Rimbaud” album in a duo realization with drums but did not make it on the album. Here it is presented as a virtuoso solo piece. “Part 1” is like a collage of rough and raw elements, scratches, and emotional glissandi while “Part 2” is more melancholic and even harmonic, there are even allusions to Beethoven’s violin concerto. “Part 3” picks up Philip-Glass-aspects and Fulmer plays them in a really harsh way which gives the music an interesting quality before “Part 4” closes the album in a very dramatic way.

Listen to “Ceremonial Magic III“ here: