At a glance
In terms of imagination and aural allure [is] beyond anything I have heard since the halcyon age of the young Benjamin Britten.The Oldie
The Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds is at the forefront of contemporary choral composing. He has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Great Music Prize, had his music performed at numerous international festivals, and has been frequently featured on CDs. He is in demand as a choral clinician and jury member.
Ēriks Ešenvalds is one of the most sought-after choral composers working today, with a busy commission schedule and performances of his music heard on every continent. Born in Priekule, Latvia in 1977, he studied at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary (1995-97) before obtaining his Masters degree in composition (2004) from the Latvian Academy of Music under the tutelage of Selga Mence. He took master-classes with Michael Finnissy, Klaus Huber, Philippe Manoury and Jonathan Harvey, amongst others. From 2002-2011 he was a member of the State Choir Latvija. In 2011 he was awarded the two-year position of Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He is married with four children and gives students his expertise as composition teacher at the Latvian Academy of Music.
Ēriks Ešenvalds has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times (2005, 2007 and 2015). The International Rostrum of Composers awarded him first prize in 2006 for his work The Legend of the Walled-in Woman. He was The Year’s New-Composer Discovery of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. The CDs At the Foot of the Sky by State Choir Latvija (2014) and O Salutaris by Kamēr… Youth Choir (2011) were awarded Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’s compositions have been premiered by ensembles including Boston Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, the Britten Sinfonia, The King’s Singers, Latvian Voices, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, the Holst Singers, Imogen Heap, Polyphony, the Choir of Merton College Oxford, the Latvian Radio Choir, the State Choir Latvija, the Kamēr… Youth Choir, Sinfonietta Riga, the Bavarian Radio Choir, ChorWerk Ruhr, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands National Children’s Choir, the Swedish Art Vocal Ensemble, the Choir of Trinity College Melbourne, Salt Lake Vocal Artists, Temple University Philadelphia, The Crossing, Chor Leoni, Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, Portland State University Chamber Choir, the Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, The University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, the Miami University Men’s Glee Club, and The University of Mississippi Concert Singers.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’s music has been performed at numerous international festivals including Klangspuren in Austria, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, Tenso Days in France, the Haarlem Choir Biennale in the Netherlands, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, International Sacred Music Festival in Latvia, the World Choir Games, IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music, Voices Now UK, ACDA National and Regional Conferences, the Spoleto Festival, USA and The Singing Network, Canada. He is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading workshops on his music. At the 2014 World Choir Games held in Riga, he composed the Games anthem, gave a major presentation on his work, acted on competition juries, and had a large-scale production premiered by the Latvian Voices and The King’s Singers. The 2015 ACDA National Conference in Salt Lake City premiered his Whispers on the Prairie Wind, where he also gave a presentation on his music, and took part in a composer roundtable forum.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’s compositions appear on many recordings released by labels such as Hyperion, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Delphian Records, Pentatone and Ondine. To date, five recordings are devoted exclusively to his work: Northern Lights from Trinity College Choir Cambridge (Gramophone Award Shortlist, Gramophone Critics’ Choice and ICI Radio-Canada Best Albums Selection in 2015), Passion and Resurrection with the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony, St Luke Passion by the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga, At the Foot of the Sky by State Choir Latvija and O Salutaris by the Kamēr… Youth Choir. A new release by the Portland State University Chamber Choir is forthcoming on the Naxos label.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’s premieres this season include the German premiere of the multimedia symphony Nordic Light in Berlin with the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the film score for the Crystal Bear-awarded film Mellow Mud at the Berlin International Film Festival, and his second major opera The Immured which premiered in May 2016 at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet. Choral works will be premiered by the Wartburg College Choir and Oklahoma State University Concert Chorale in the USA as well as the London-based Ora Singers and Lincoln’s Inn Choir. New anthologies of his well-known works in upper and male voice versions will also be published.
Current commission projects include writing for the Yale Glee Club, Harvard University, International Federation of Choral Music, Interkultur, Shenzhen Lily Choir, China. He will also be travelling to the USA and Canada, Asia, New Zealand and within Europe. His second multimedia symphony focusing on the natural phenomenon of volcanoes will premiere in 2018.
Eriks Esenvalds gives masterclasses, conducts and hears world premiere in Shenzhen, China. Read more
“Ešenvalds responds to the purpose of the words he sets, occupying similar choral territory to the likes of Whitacre and Shchedrin, character rather than ego dominating …”BBC Radio 3
“… an inventive Latvian composer with an ear for a good hook and a knack for evocative effects.”New York Times
“Ešenvalds is clearly the next big thing in musical mysticism …”The Times (London)
“Outrageously, exhaustingly beautiful, this disc pairs the best of Latvia’s contemporary choral composers with the best of young British choirs.” (Northern Lights by Trinity College Choir Cambridge)Gramophone Magazine
“His rich, sonorous choral writing is in almost permanent ecstasy, with sopranos sailing over great waves of cluster chords, a colouristic vision …”The Guardian
“Ešenvalds displays an impressive command and variety of musical language …”Choir & Organ Magazine
“In terms of imagination and aural allure [Esenvalds' music] is beyond anything I have heard since the halcyon age of the young Benjamin Britten.”The Oldie
“Hazy, autumnal vistas of rural Latvia are another sensory selling point, as is the elegantly spare choral score by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds.” (Crystal Bear-awarded film Mellow Mud)The Hollywood Reporter
“Beginning with a colourful, multi-pitch chord that dissolves into fragments, the 13-minute work sustains Latvia’s venerable choral tradition with robust, resolutely tonal choral writing, as each of two parts builds to an almost cinematic climax in exalting nature.” (US premiere of Lakes Awake at Dawn by Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons)Financial Times
“Ešenvalds’s work is emblematic of a new golden age of choral music” —Suzi DigbyORA Choir
Selected Discography —
The Doors of Heaven
St Luke Passion
At the foot of the sky
Passion and Resurrection
Related Media —
- Robin Tyson