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The Harry Partch Collection, Volume 1

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Album Review

Originally released in 1997 on CRI and reissued by New World Records in 2004, the first volume of The Harry Partch Collection set the tone for this essential series culling original recordings of Partch's works. Co-produced by Composers Recordings, Inc. and the Harry Partch Foundation, the series gave new life to forgotten works committed to 78-rpm and LP in the '50s and '60s (Innova's Enclosure series would tackle the harsher-sounding recordings from the previous decade). Vol. 1 features two cycles and one other piece. Written in 1949-1950, Eleven Intrusions groups some of Partch's last non-percussive spoken-sung pieces. A suite of elegant instrumental tunes and graceful short songs, this 20-minute cycle was recorded in 1950-1951 and features Partch, Ben Johnston, Betty Johnston, Donald Pippin, and Bill Snead. The performance is quintessential Partch: vibrant, gripping, haunting, and slightly chaotic — NewBand's extremely polite recording from the 1990s simply doesn't stand the comparison. The second cycle featured here is Plectra and Percussion Dances — Satyr-Play Music for Dance Theater, which brings together three unrelated works from 1952: Castor & Pollux (15 minutes), Ring Around the Moon (9 minutes), and Even Wild Horses (23 minutes). The first and last of these show the composer gradually focusing on rhythm — the latter borrows from a number of African and Latin American dances to set fragments from Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell. Castor & Pollux is still a bit disorganized and cumbersome, the marimbas forming a near-impenetrable wall of percussion, but Even Wild Horses points at the choreographed madness of Delusions of the Fury. Ring Around the Moon is a very different affair: it uses the adapted guitar and kithara as its main colors, and features wonderfully inane lyrics — Partch seems to be mocking art song (or even his own earlier spoken-sung pieces). This recording of Plectra and Percussion Dances is from 1953 and features a Gate 5 Ensemble lineup very similar to the one heard on the live performance of Ring Around the Moon included on the Innova set Enclosure Two. The CD concludes with a 1958 recording of Ulysses at the Edge (a reworked version of Ulysses Departs from the Edge of the World) featuring the Gate 5 Ensemble with David Reid and Dick Shleppe on saxophones, instead of Jack Logan's trumpet featured on the 1971 recording. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Top Albums and Songs by Gate 5 Ensemble

The Harry Partch Collection, Volume 1, Gate 5 Ensemble
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music, Jazz
  • Released: 1997

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