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Ešenvalds - Northern Lights -

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One critic has dubbed the music of Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds “relentless rapture” and it’s true that the choral pieces here, mostly unaccompanied (a harp is a nice addition in three of them), do not vary widely in mood. But one can’t blame Esenvalds for moving into what is clearly a wide-open space in the market between Baltic holy minimalism and the harmonic and philosophical warm bath of John Rutter’s music. Esenvalds negotiates this happy medium very well, with just enough sentiment in the big soprano lines to make you feel good, but not enough to invite charges of schlock. The music has the sparesness of the Baltic choral school even if it takes a few steps in the direction of conventional tonality, and Esenvalds responds to the various texts, some of them in English (he has attracted commissions in both Britain and the U.S.), through melodic shape more than through harmony or tempo. He couldn’t have found a better set of collaborators than the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge and its conductor, Stephen Layton, who amplify the music with intriguing effects in the chapel they know well. This can be safely recommended for those enamored of the accessible side of British choral music, and even for those who like Pärt and his friends.

James Manheim

Ešenvalds - Northern Lights
Hyperion Records CDA68083