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The Bach Choir is delighted to be offering a work of Ēriks Ešenvalds as part of its concert titled ‘Darkness to Light’ at Royal Festival Hall, London on Tuesday 6th March.
Like many Baltic composers Ešenvalds is characterised by a lack of self-consciousness, a directness of expression that is disarmingly sincere, and a love affair with choral music.
Growing up in a newly independent Latvia he was not limited by the past and felt he had a new, clean sheet on which to start composing. But he is born of a culture that places choral singing at the very heart of its national identity and choral music has become a regular part of his work.
His inspiration comes from nature and also folk music, he says. But before realising his true vocation lay in music Ešenvalds studied for two years in a Baptist seminary, and he remains deeply committed to the church, serving as director of music for the Vilande Baptist Congregation in Riga. The most substantial product to date of his profound religious faith, Passion and Resurrection was written in 2005 and premiered by Māris Sirmais and the State Choir Latvia.
David Hill, Music Director of The Bach Choir says that the reason he chose this work for the Choir was: “It is a superb choral work with a unique sound world, well suited to the power and subtlety of The Bach Choir. And its message is eternal as humankind continues to seek spirituality in all its forms.”
Following his Bachelors and Masters degrees in composition at the Music Academy in Riga, Ešenvalds undertook a wide range of occasional studies—with Jonathan Harvey and Michael Finnissy from the United Kingdom, with the American Richard Danielpour, and with Klaus Huber from Switzerland, among others.
For his Passion the composer has assembled an interlocking mosaic of texts from the gospels, from Byzantine and Roman liturgies, and from the Old Testament. The result is a series of snapshots, the tale told elliptically. The story begins with a fallen woman acknowledging the divinity of Jesus, and ends with Mary Magdalene (who may be that same fallen woman) recognising the risen Christ. This circularity (and there are similar echoes and pre-echoes within the narrative) serves to emphasise that these are not historical events but are occurring in an eternal present, just as the passion and resurrection of Christ are re-enacted and re-experienced by Christians every week.
DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Royal Festival Hall, London | Tuesday 6th March at 7:30pm
Mahler, arr Gottwald: Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen
Copland: Quiet City
Esenvalds: Passion and Resurrection
Haydn: Missa In Angustiis ‘Nelson’ Mass
Orchestra – Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor – David Hill
Chorus – The Bach Choir
Soprano – Carolyn Sampson
Mezzo – Kathryn Rudge
Tenor – Andrew Tortise
Baritone – James Platt