Harry Partch Sonata Dementia – More, Please

I’ve always loved the music of Harry Partch. These new recordings by Bridge Records do a tremendous service to the world of music. Hearing the Partch ensemble perform with copies of Partch’s original hand-made instruments.

That’s important because it means these instruments can really be played, not handled like irreplaceable museum pieces. And the Partch ensemble digs into the music with gusto.

Plus, these new recordings sound clearer and better-defined than Harry Partch’s originals. And that means it’s easier to hear the subtle distinctions between microtones and the unusual overtones of the instruments.

This volume includes “Ulysses at the Edge of the World,” written in 1951 for Chet Baker. The original version included trumpet, string bass, and Partch instruments. Baker never played it, and the work was recast with different instruments at least twice. The Partch ensemble performs the original version here.

They also perform the original version of Windsong, from 1950. This is another work that went through several transformations, eventually becoming the ballet “Daphne of the Dunes.” To me, it’s like “Windsong” is the best bits of “Daphne,” especially the rhythmic sections. If you like the one you’ll enjoy the other.

And of course, there’s the title track, Sonata Dementia. Originally written as an exercise for his 43-note scale, the work remained in limbo. Eventually, it became part of “Plectra & Percussion Dances.” As a piece, this original form of “Sonata Dementia” works, and it works well.

The Partch Ensemble understands Partch’s music. And they’re thoroughly proficient on Partch’s instruments. These are amazing performances of amazing music. All I have to say is “more, please.”

Harry Partch – Sonata Dementia
The Music of Harry Partch, Volume 3
Bridge Records

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