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Ešenvalds, Ēriks (b1977)
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Ēriks Ešenvalds

born: 26 January 1977
country: Latvia

Ēriks Ešenvalds is a pragmatic composer—pragmatic in the sense that he is always the conscientious professional, tailoring each new work to the requirements of the occasion, the forces available, and the abilities (and priorities) of the performers; pragmatic, too, is his tendency to set English texts, mindful of the needs of an international audience; but also pragmatic is his use of whatever techniques, whatever degree of dissonance or consonance, of rhythmic and textural complexity, suit his expressive purposes at any point. The result might seem to be wilful eclecticism, but like many Baltic composers, his work is characterized by a lack of self-consciousness, a directness of expression that is disarming in its sincerity. Coming to maturity in a newly independent Latvia, he is not subject to the confining strictures of Socialist Realism, nor its mirror image, the equally constricting ideology of Western post-war modernism.

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. Contact with such differing aesthetic outlooks and compositional philosophies has helped him develop a flexible musical language that can encompass the fiercely articulate modernism of Frontiers of time (for strings), the neo-Impressionist orchestral study Clouds, as well as a simple a cappella arrangement of Amazing grace. He has written much instrumental and chamber music as well as a successful opera, Joseph is a fruitful bough, and if the choral medium has become an increasingly prominent strand of his practice in recent years, that should come as no surprise, for he is born of a culture that places choral singing at the very heart of its national identity. Indeed, he is intimate with the workings of the choral repertoire from the inside, as he is also a tenor in the professional State Choir Latvija. Yes, Ēriks Ešenvalds is a pragmatic composer, embracing a medium he knows he has much to offer, and a truly modern one, creating opportunities for himself by reaching out to the world from his tiny country, researching his texts on the internet, and taking his inspiration from such diverse sources as the Jan Garbarek/Hilliard Ensemble Officium CD on the ECM label, or a French recording of Albanian folk music.

from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2011


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