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 recordings. Ēriks is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading masterclasses and conducting.
Ēriks Ešenvalds is one of the most sought-after composers working today with a busy commission schedule. Performances of his music are heard on every continent and his works are widely recorded. Ēriks is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading masterclasses and conducting.
Born in Priekule, Latvia in 1977, Ēriks Ešenvalds studied at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary from 1995–97 before obtaining his master’s degree in composition in 2004 from the Latvian Academy of Music under the tutelage of Selga Mence. He took masterclasses with Michael Finnissy, Klaus Huber, Philippe Manoury, and Jonathan Harvey, amongst others. From 2002–11 he was a member of the acclaimed State Choir Latvija, the largest professional choir in the Baltics. From 2011–13 he was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. At present, Ēriks heads the Department of Composition at the Latvian Academy of Music, where he has been teaching since 2004. He is a doctoral candidate in the arts. Ēriks lives near Riga and is married with four children.
Ēriks Ešenvalds has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times (2005, 2007, 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, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, Britten Sinfonia, Gewandhaus Leipzig, The King’s Singers, Latvian Voices, Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Holst Singers, Imogen Heap, Polyphony, Choir of Merton College Oxford, Latvian Radio Choir, State Choir Latvija, Youth Choir Kamēr…, Sinfonietta Riga, Bavarian Radio Choir, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Opera and Ballet, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, ORA Singers, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, BBC Proms Youth Choir, Netherlands National Children’s Choir, New Zealand Youth Choir, Shenzhen Lily Choir, The MET (Koyukai Choir), New Dublin Voices, Choral Scholars of University College Dublin, Swedish Art Vocal Ensemble, Choir of Trinity College Melbourne, Salt Lake Vocal Artists, Temple University Concert Choir, The Crossing, Chor Leoni, Magnum Chorum, Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, Portland State University Chamber Choir, Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Christ Church Cathedral Choir Houston, Saint Philip’s in the Hills Tucson, ChorWerk Ruhr, Chapel Choir of Methodist College Belfast, Choirs of St Mary’s School Cambridge, Duo Kirsanova-Lewis, 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, Choral Arts Ensemble, Oklahoma State University Concert Chorale, Classical Movements, Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, Choirs of Trinity University San Antonio, Louisville University Cardinal Singers, Cabrillo Chorus, and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra. He composed the scores for the feature films Dawn of War (2020) and Mellow Mud (2016).
Ēriks Ešenvalds’ music has been performed in major venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Symphony Hall in Boston, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Royal Albert Hall and Wigmore Hall in London, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Sydney Opera Hall, Philharmonie Berlin, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, and Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. His works have been performed at and commissioned for numerous international festivals, including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham Music Festival, Voices Now, and LIVE from London in the UK, the Grant Park Music Festival, ACDA National and Regional Conferences, and Spoleto Festival in the US, The Singing Network in Canada, Klangspuren in Austria, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, European Youth Choir Festival Basel in Switzerland, the Haarlem Choir Biennale and Cello Biennale Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Oslo International Church Music Festival in Norway, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival and International Sacred Music Festival in Latvia, as well as the World Choir Games, IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music, and Tenso Days. He was commissioned for Latvia’s centenary celebrations on the 2018 Proclamation Day and for the 2013 National Remembrance Day of the Netherlands.
Ēriks Ešenvalds is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading masterclasses and conducting. At the 2014 World Choir Games, held during Riga European Capital of Culture 2014, he composed the 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, 2018 Choral Canada Podium Conference & Festival and 2018 and 2015 Singing Network International Symposium in St John’s, Canada, Choral Connect 2017 in Auckland, the first South African National Conductors Convention in Cape Town in 2023, and the 66th Congress of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML) in Riga in 2017. He served as a jury member at the 2019 and 2017 Musica Sacra Nova International Composers Competition under the patronage of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, 2019 Tokyo International Choral Competition, 2019 Taipei International Choral Competition, 2018 International Baltic Sea Choir Competition in Jūrmala, 2017 Cantat International Choral Festival and Symposium in Manado, Indonesia, and 2016 Rimini International Choral Competition.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’ music is widely recorded and released by labels such as Decca Classics, Delphian, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Naxos, Ondine, Pentatone, Signum, Odradek, and Berlin Classics. To date, ten recordings are devoted exclusively to his work: Northern Lights from Trinity College Choir Cambridge (Gramophone Award Shortlist and Critics’ Choice, ICI Radio-Canada Best Albums Selection), Passion and Resurrection from Polyphony with Britten Sinfonia, St Luke Passion from the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Opera News Critic’s Choice), Translations (Gramophone’s Critics’ Choice and Editor’s Choice) and The Doors of Heaven (Gramophone Editor’s Choice) from Portland State Chamber Choir, There Will Come Soft Rains by Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University (Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice), From the Dim and Distant Past and At the Foot of the Sky from State Choir Latvija (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year), O Salutaris from Youth Choir Kamēr… (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year), and most recently the compilation Latvian Radio Archive: Ēriks Ešenvalds. His music also appears on recordings by VOCES8, ORA Singers, The Crossing, Elīna Garanča with the Latvian Radio Choir, Iveta Apkalna with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Merton College Choir Oxford, University College Dublin Choral Scholars, Trinity College Choir Melbourne, Vocal Arts Ensemble of Sweden, South Dakota Chorale, and Cantus, amongst others. His work Earth Teach Me Quiet recorded live by The Crossing on their Grammy-nominated album Rising w/ The Crossing was selected amongst The New York Times 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2020.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’ recent large-scale premieres include Lakes Awake at Dawn for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Pleiades for the Grant Park Music Festival Chicago, A Shadow for the BBC Proms, Dreams Under Your Feet for the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Whispers on the Prairie Wind for the Utah Symphony and Utah Chamber Artists, St Luke Passion for the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga, and Visions of Arctic: Sea for the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra. 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, Germany, and Switzerland, 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.
“In terms of imagination and aural allure [is] beyond anything I have heard since the halcyon age of the young Benjamin Britten.” —The Oldie