Composers: Bryce Dessner
Compositions: Tenebre
Performers: Moses Sumney, Ensemble Resonanz
Catalogue Number: Resonanzraum RRR002CD

Bryce Dessner is one of the few composers who’s successfully straddled the worlds of popular music and classical. He’s the classically trained guitarist for The National, but in the last decade or so has been writing classical works as well. Here, Ensemble Resonanz performs three works originally for string quartet or trio, as well as the string orchestra Lachrimae.

While I can’t suggest a more fitting term for Dessner’s style than the vague “post-minimalist”, I also can’t help but feel like I’ve heard a lot of this before. There’s a heck of a lot of long drones opening up into expansive string clusters. Aheym, written for the Kronos Quartet, has echoes of several modern composers, but perhaps most of all the sadly departed Jóhann Jóhannsson, as well as Max Richter. Listening to Aheym and Tenebre feels an awful lot like watching a trailer for a serious new drama. That said, I like the vocal outro of Tenebre – as Dessner says “the texture expands to three quartets playing, and an octet of voices”, all sung affectingly by Moses Sumney.

Skrik (after Munch’s The Scream) and Lachrimae (after the Dowland) complete the disc. Performances are fine, although not terribly different to previous recordings in smaller ensemble formats. If you feel like investigating the
new breed of rocker-turned-composer, I’d suggest looking into Jonny Greenwood’s more texturally and tonally unusual work first.