10 great indie-classical artists to discover

28 August 2014, 16:03 | Updated: 6 January 2017, 14:45

Indie-classical music: it's where the coolest indie rock musicians turn their hand to classical composition, and where classically-trained forward-thinkers turn to the indie underground for inspiration - here are the best of them.

Max Richter

German-born Richter is the daddy of indie-classical. For years he was in relative obscurity, releasing records on super-cool Brighton-based label FatCat records, but since he leapfrogged his contemporaries in 2012 with his magnificent Vivaldi: Recomposed project (which features both violinist Daniel Hope and conductor André De Ridder), he's been at the forefront of the fusion of classical music with forward-thinking ideas. 


Nico Muhly

Muhly is perfectly at home in the world of opera (his magnum opus, Two Boys, is performed the world over) and film scores, but his collaborations with some of the leading lights of the indie music world make him a true genre-hopper. He's worked with Icelandic queen of idiosyncrasy Björk, alt-country legend Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, indie behemoths The National (more on them later) and, err… Usher. Also, he's publicly stated his loathing for the term 'indie-classical'. Sorry Nico. Don't hate us.


Hilary Hahn

Nothing is out of bounds for violinist Hilary Hahn - she's made a career out of playing the classics, but she's also collaborated with Hauschka (see below), indie balladeers Tom Brosseau and Josh Ritter, and even with epic indie prog stalwarts …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Here she is performing with them (and jumping over the monitors like Slash). 


Bryce Dessner

He's the guitarist in indie-rock stadium-fillers The National, and a fully-fledged indie-classical legend. He's got the nerdy credentials, the rockstar clout and some hearty recommendations from the likes of Steve Reich and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Tellingly, when The National curated the too-cool-for-you-to-attend ATP Festival in 2013, the line-up was stuffed with his contemporaries, like Nico Muhly, The Kronos Quartet and Richard Reed Parry. 


Richard Reed Parry

Speaking of whom, the Arcade Fire's accordionist/bassist/general thwacker of percussion is, like Bryce Dessner, now a fully paid-up member of the genre-straddlers. His innovative composition, Music For Heart And Breath, came out on core classical heavyweight label Deutsche Grammophon earlier this year and he's shared concert bills with Jonny Greenwood. Also, look at him hanging out with Bryce Dessner and a whole host of other scruffy folk at the recording of Music For Heart And Breath. 


André De Ridder

This German conductor and arranger might be standing a little to the left of the indie-classical limelight, but he's integral. He's conducted and arranged for the likes of spooky Danish psych-rockers Efterklang, Blur's Damon Albarn and less-than-chirpy indie band These New Puritans. He also conducted the recording of Max Richter's Vivaldi: Recomposed, which makes him Quite a Big Deal. 


Ólafur Arnalds

Icelandic pianist and composer Ólafur Arnalds is probably best known for composing the theme tune and soundtrack to the TV whodunnit Broadchurch, but this canny Nordic chap also has a string of acclaimed solo instrumental albums to his name, as well as a record contract with Mercury Classics. He's also released albums on the deeply cool indie label Erased Tapes, home to fellow indie-classical sorts Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm. 


Jonny Greenwood

Yes, he's the guitarist in Radiohead, possibly the biggest indie band of all time. But he's also one of the most innovative classical composers working today and, rather importantly, he's buds with indie-classical elder statesman Steve Reich (Reich composed an entire piece based on Radiohead songs). Aside from that, Greenwood has scored indie flicks like There Will Be Blood and Norwegian Wood, and recently played a gig in Wapping Power Station with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Just because. 



Another German-born pioneer of indie-classical, Hauschka (real name Volker Bertelmann) is from the same indie label stable as Max Richter, releasing records on FatCat records in the late '00s. He's also collaborated with concert violinist Hilary Hahn, indie mariachi band Calexico and a whole host of people who are generally cooler than you. Also, Hauschka stuff his piano with toys and machines for concert performances, so he's immediately in our good books.


Brooklyn Rider

This string quartet have more in common with an indie band than they do with a classical ensemble - they play standing up, for a start, but they've also pioneered an extensive, crowd-funded project called 'The Brooklyn Rider Almanac', which saw them commission new works from a huge range of left-field composers including the drummer from indie legends Deerhoof. And they were personally selected by none other than Philip Glass to record his complete string quartets. Well, if they're ok by Philip… Here they are playing in our office.