Esenvalds - Northern Lights - Gramophone



Born in 1977, Latvian Ä’riks Ešenvalds is principally known as a composer of choral music. This album commemorates a two-year stint as Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge, whose choir is here joined by Trinity Brass and harpist Sally Pryce. Ešenvalds’s style is resolutely tonal, at times harking to the Anglican tradition (in the Trinity Te Deum and the Merton College Service), and at others to a more ethereal form of post-minimalism, though without the processual apparatus that sometimes pertains the latter style. It is, in other words, particularly well suited for mixed modern choirs, whether or not accompanied by brass, organ or (in Ešenvalds’s more playful mood) Jew’s harp or tuned glasses. Within this stylistic range it is also varied within its range and moods, with the texts the determining factor (as the title suggests, not all of these are sacred).

Trinity College’s choir sounds as though its members relish the experience of recording his music. The sonority is secure from tops to bottom (one is used to fine female trebles, but basses of this depth and solidity are rarer in such choirs), and the recording has clarity, detail and presence. For myself, I find Ešenvalds at his most convincing when dwelling on natural phenomena of his homeland; too often, the sacred music flirts with bombast (Te Deum), predictable harmonic progressions (Magnificat) or clichéd spirituality (O Salutaris hostia). Nevertheless, lovers of this corner of the choral repertoire will find here much to enjoy.

Fabrice Fitch

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