. . . this is the work of a master at the very top of his game . . . [Dessner] weaves a sublime spell as the music ebbs and flows through a whole range of emotions. It's contemporary yet reverential, ambitious yet enjoyable and, for anyone who thought he was just a guy who played guitar in another (admittedly brilliant) rock band, something of an education.
Never before have classical and rock converged in so organic, compelling and sensual a way as they do in the three short orchestral works by New York composer and guitarist Bryce Dessner on his new release . . . Despite this broad spectrum of influences, his voice remains individual and distinct. The works performed here with de Ridder show Dessner to be a composer of surprising independence of mind . . . The same is true of Jonny Greenwood . . . With this album, Bryce Dessner and Jonny Greenwood open up a new frontier for symphonic music.
These are no dabblers or interlopers; they take the development of classical "chops" very seriously . . . [Dessner / "St. Carolyn by the sea", "Lachrimae", "Raphael"]: Several of his sweeping crescendos are worthy of John Adams or Philip Glass. On "St. Carolyn by the Sea" and "Raphael", Dessner neatly incorporates clear-sounding electric guitars and percussion writing that give the pieces the impetus of a rock drummer but, when the entire section is going hell for leather, writ large. In the work "Lachrimae", there are also more delicate passages filled with sustained strings that are particularly affecting. Although Greenwood's piece is the one that is a suite from a film score, there is a cinematic quality to passages in Dessner's music too. Some of "St. Carolyn's" more thrilling passages could easily be heard alongside a top notch suspense film . . . [in Greenwood's] Suite from "There Will be Blood", I'm particularly smitten with the overlaid glissandos and chordal intensity of the movement "Henry Plainview." Where there is repetition or the use of ostinato, as on "Future Markets," it is more off kilter, frequently shorn off in dramatic fashion. And even though each movement of the suite is distilled from a film score cue, these aphoristic vignettes are vividly detailed and characterful. So forget your preconceptions about "rock stars" as classical dilettantes: Dessner and Greenwood are the real deal.
. . . "St. Carolyn by the Sea" and its brethren are terrific pieces of music by any stretch . . . both pieces are indepently stunning . . . Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood" suite receives a softer focus, playing to the music's elongated strengths. Dessner's works are a tremendous leap forward for the composer and sets the bar very high for any indie-pop musician who wants to take a stab at classical composition. Combined under André de Ridder's guiding hand and Deutsche Grammophon's professional stamp of integrity, "St. Carolyn by the Sea/There Will Be Blood" will go down as a modern classic. It can't be anything else.
. . . one sign, among many, of shifting cultural tides . . . Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood" suite is foreboding and inky-black, a work whose extended quotes of Penderecki and Ligeti do nothing to obscure the thumbprint of Greenwood's sensibility . . . The slow-fall-in-free-space glissandi that punctuate the "Henry Plainview" movement, the most obvious Ligeti touch, break open into plangent, lovely string writing, a push-pull between furtive remorse and throbbing evil keeps the piece from curdling. Dessner's surprisingly mordant sensibility is a match for Greenwood's. On his "St. Carolyn By the Sea", moaning tremolos pass like a fever chill through the orchestra and show up in the guitars a few minutes later, goose flesh prickling the music's surface. There are guitars in the work, but they are twinkling and demure, and often feel like they are murmuring to quiet the upheaval of the shuddering beast that is the full orchestra. The work builds to a martial tattoo of an ending and cuts off, leaving its sharp outline visible in our minds. Dessner's ear for string writing is particularly rich . . . "Raphael", builds from wispy tendrils of sound into a super-saturated moment of full orchestral color, a blazing sunrise burning fog off of a river . . . It is glacial, patiently ecstatic, and further evidence that Dessner's vision could support some large-scale works. Whoever wants to commission his first symphony would probably be rewarded with something fantastic.