Ešenvalds: The Doors of Heaven – The First Tears; Rivers of Light; A Drop in the Ocean; Passion and Resurrection

Reviewed on Tue 26 Dec, 2017

The young singers acquit themselves with secure idiomatic feeling in the dark-hued luminescence of The First Tears, a luxurious re-telling of an Inuit legend.

The young Latvian Ēric Ešenvalds’s profile on disc receives a boost from this richly sung collection of works featuring the Portland State Chamber Choir directed by Ethan Sperry. The young singers acquit themselves with secure idiomatic feeling in the dark-hued luminescence of The First Tears, a luxurious re-telling of an Inuit legend, and with glowing, watercolour delicacy in Rivers of Light, a glorious evocation of the Northern Lights beautifully juxtaposing Sami folk tradition and the diaries of English explorers. They make light work, too, of the satisfyingly complex blending of male and female voices in A Drop in the Ocean, composed in tribute to Mother Teresa. The four-part, 30-minute, string orchestra-accompanied Passion and Resurrection shows the Portland singers at their most mature, with Hannah Consenz the admirable soloist. Sperry marshals his forces with a striking sense of mounting drama (especially so in the section were the crowd demand Jesus be crucified) matched by a hauntingly proportioned profundity. Well worth investigating.
–Michael Quinn