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Bryce Dessner's Classical Side

by Seth Colter Walls

Bryce Dessner's Classical Side

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He's not just a guitarist in The National: In recent years, Bryce Dessner has been indulging his conservatory schooling by stepping into the classical sphere. He has played on key records by minimalists (like Steve Reich's piece "2x5," on which Dessner shows up as part of the Bang on a Can All-Stars) and post-minimalists (his guitar appears on David Lang's Death Speaks, in an ensemble that includes Nico Muhly).

Dessner's deep affinity for these movements in American classical music is likewise reflected in his own original pieces, such as the slashing-and-melodic string quartet item "Aheym" (the title track of a 2013 Kronos Quartet album devoted to his compositions). In 2014, Deutsche Grammophon brought out more of Dessner's extended works, in performances by The Copenhagen Philharmonic (which balanced out the record with some compositions by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood).

When Dessner's own guitar playing joins the Copenhagen players -- on "St. Carolyn by the Sea" and "Raphael" -- it's not some left-turn freakout, but a statement that the artier side of the alt rock world can claim a natural affinity for modern orchestral trends. Along with the composer/guitarist's one-off piece "Long Winter," recorded by Zach Miskin, our mix offers nearly two hours of music from Dessner's emerging second career. So click play, and enjoy!

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