Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Eriks Esenvalds, The Doors of Heaven, Portland State Chamber Choir, Ethan Sperry
At least that is what I hear on the nicely ruminating series of choral works that form the program on The Doors of Heaven (Naxos 8.579008), a CD that I have inadvertently overlooked for a little while but now unearth happily and I find myself gravitating towards. Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, places with old choral traditions that we hear in a batch of New Music composers, at least two anyway. Or maybe a few more too but there is the Orthodox Byzantine and beyond to a Russian Orthodox music spanning many centuries so there is a kind of glorious mystery music that we can see as precursors today among a few, even I would mention the late John Tavener. Yet all that is not at all obvious with Eriks Esenvalds. Just a kind of something in the "world air" so to say?
The Portland Chamber Choir under Ethan Sperry give us ravishing readings of four Esenvalds works written over the recent present of 2006 to 2015. They flow together into a movingly ambient whole, each slightly different but all in the way of a piece.
So it is a delight to hear "The First Tears" (2015), "Rivers of Light" (2014), "A Drop in the Ocean" (2006) and "Passion and Resurrection" (2006). Esenvalds clearly has an excellent grasp of what might sound well with the SATB configuration and gives us ethereal sounds that transport us to an almost mythical, enchanted canopy of human voices. Why is it that such harmonic spiciness should sound so well with the right gathering of voices? One answer is that Esenvalds knows what will work and does it. Perhaps also because there is on a daily basis little enough Modernity for chorus that generally enters the ears in what one finds out there, or at least I am not overwhelmed with a vast amount of excellent Modern choral music. So this is all the more valuable for all that.
This is music that transfixes, perfect perhaps for those eerie silent early winter evenings? Or fall sunny days where memories crowd the experiencing self and need to be coral-ed and sent packing after a while. This music supplies you with a magical present to counter all that with an effervescently obsidian sharpness and shine of memory flow!
So heartily do I recommend this.