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Ēriks Ešenvalds Composer

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 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 Master’s 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 2002–11 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. In 2018 he was bestowed Officer in the Order of the Three Stars, the highest state decoration of his home country Latvia, for merits in the field of culture.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ compositions have been premiered by ensembles including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, Britten Sinfonia, Gewandhaus Leipzig, 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, Youth Choir Kamēr…, Sinfonietta Riga, the Bavarian Radio Choir, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Opera and Ballet, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Ora Singers, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, BBC Proms Youth Choir, the Netherlands National Children’s Choir, Shenzhen Lily Choir, New Zealand Youth Choir, the Swedish Art Vocal Ensemble, the Choir of Trinity College Melbourne, Salt Lake Vocal Artists, Temple University Concert Choir, 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, ChorWerk Ruhr, Cathedral Choral Society, Cor Vivaldi, The University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, Yale Glee Club, the Miami University Men’s Glee Club, The University of Mississippi Concert Singers, Lincoln’s Inn Choir, Wartburg College Choir, Oklahoma State University Concert Chorale, Classical Movements, Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, Louisville University Cardinal Singers, Cabrillo Chorus, and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra. He composed the score for the Latvian feature film Mellow Mud, which was awarded at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival and 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ 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 and International Sacred Music Festival in Latvia, the World Choir Games, IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music, the BBC Proms, Cheltenham Music Festival, and Voices Now in the UK, Grant Park Music Festival, the ACDA National and Regional Conferences, and Spoleto Festival in the US, and The Singing Network in Canada.

Ēriks Ešenvalds 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. He was a speaker at the 2017 IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona, the 2018 Chorus America Conference in Chicago, the 2018 Choral Canada Podium Conference & Festival and 2018 and 2015 Singing Network International Symposium in St John’s, Canada, Choral Connect 2017 in Auckland, and at IAML 2017, the 66th annual congress of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres in Riga. He served as a jury member at the 2018 International Baltic Sea Choir Competition in Jurmala, the 2017 Musica Sacra Nova International Composers Competition at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, the 2017 Cantat International Choral Festival and Symposium in Manado, Indonesia, and the 2016 Rimini International Choral Competition.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ compositions appear on many recordings released by labels such as Hyperion, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Delphian Records, Pentatone, Ondine, and Naxos. To date, seven recordings are devoted exclusively to his work: Northern Lights from Trinity College Choir Cambridge (Gramophone Award Shortlist, Gramophone Critics’ Choice, ICI Radio-Canada Best Albums Selection), Passion and Resurrection with the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony, St Luke Passion by the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Opera News Critic’s Choice), The Doors of Heaven from Portland State Chamber Choir (Gramophone Editor’s Choice), From the dim and distant past and At the Foot of the Sky by State Choir Latvija (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year), and O Salutaris by Youth Choir Kamēr… (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year).

There were two all-Ešenvalds releases in 2020 which were successive Choral albums of the month for Gramophone Magazine: There Will Come Soft Rains by Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University and conductor Richard Nance on Signum Records, and Translations from the Portland State Chamber Choir under Ethan Sperry on the Naxos label.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ recent premieres include Lakes Awake at Dawn for the Boston Symphony and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Whispers on the Prairie Wind for the Utah Symphony and Salt Lake Vocal Artists, St Luke Passion for the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga, as well as commissions from the BBC Proms, Gewandhaus Leipzig, and Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago. His full-scale opera The Immured was premiered at the Latvian National Opera in 2016 to great acclaim. 2018 saw the premiere of his second major multimedia symphony based on volcanoes. Nordic Light, his first multimedia symphony on the natural phenomenon of the aurora borealis, was performed in the US, Canada, and Germany, and is the subject of the documentary film Nordic Light: A Composer’s Diary, which follows the composer on his expeditions to the Arctic region.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ premieres this season include commissions from the “Lietuva” ensemble Lithuania, Musica Viva Australia, Christ Church Houston, and others. He will travel to the USA, Japan and many European countries to work with choirs both as composer and conductor.

Ikon Arts–Edition Peters is managing Ēriks Ešenvalds’ commissions and workshop schedule. Ēriks Ešenvalds is published by Musica Baltica in global partnership with Edition Peters.

“In terms of imagination and aural allure [is] beyond anything I have heard since the halcyon age of the young Benjamin Britten.” —The Oldie