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Ben Verdery and the Ulysses Quartet's "A Giant Beside You"

Released on ReEntrant/New Focus Records, the album features a work by Bryce Dessner — as well as Leonard Bernstein, Javier Farías, and Verdery himself


Guitarist and composer Ben Verdery recently released a new album in collaboration with the Ulysses Quartet. Titled "A Giant Beside You", the disc is bound together by a work written especially for Verdery — Bryce Dessner's Quintet for High Strings, which is scored for guitar and string quartet.

Guitarist and composer Bryce Dessner has written works for a number of leading contemporary-music ensembles, including the Kronos Quartet, ensemble intercontemporain, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also plays guitar in rock band The National, alongside his brother Aaron. Dessner's close friendship with Ben Verdery lead him to integrate the soundworld of the guitar with that of the string quartet in this commissioned work.

Two of Verdery's own compositions also feature on the album. The titular work, A Giant Beside You, takes its compositional lead from a song by Sly and the Family Stones, titled “Stand!" You can hear the work below:


Verdery's second piece, About to Fall, is a tribute to his close friend, the late composer Ingram Marshall.

In addition, Verdery has arranged Leonard Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata for the guitar, sharing musical material from both the clarinet and piano parts around the guitar and string quartet. The album closes with Javier Farías's Andean Suite, a musical exploration of Peruvian folklore.

"[Quintet for High Strings] was composed for my dear friend, Ben Verdery, who has been a part of my life for nearly twenty-five years," said Bryce Dessner of his work. "This quintet brings me back to my primary instrument — the guitar — and my relationship with Ben, which was so formative in my development as a musician. In this new piece, I am exploring my relationship to the instrument in a new way."

You can find the album, here.

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