Download of the Week: Ēriks Ešenvalds

You want beauty? I've got beauty.

I first heard a track from The Doors of Heaven back in 2015 when John Atkinson visited the barn about which I wrote, "Music flowed into the room with complete disregard for the mechanics of reproduction." What I meant was, this recording was recorded beautifully.

Here I sit, listening to Ēriks Ešenvalds The Doors of Heaven, released on Naxos this year, performed by the Portland State University Chamber Choir (PSCC) in awe of it all.

from the film Nordic Light: A Composer's Diary

The album debuted at #1 on Billboard's Traditional Classical Chart and enjoys an Editor's Choice ranking in the current issue of Gramophone. The works included on The Doors of Heaven speak to "nature, religious faith and legend" and the PSCC give voice to Ešenvalds power and beauty.

From Ethan Sperry, Conductor of the PSCC:

I have often thought of the tonal music of the 18th and 19th centuries as being the music of human construction, with major and minor chords representing the lines and blocks we construct to depict order within nature. Ešenvalds’ expanded tonality, though it includes dissonant tones, sounds to me even more consonant than major and minor, something like the next dimension of construction. Perhaps these are the harmonies of the Fibonacci sequence, the sounds of the spiral, or the way in which nature actually orders itself but which remain beyond complete human comprehension. Perhaps this is why it works equally well to depict the wonder a human feels when first viewing the Northern Lights, or when encountering the Divine in a religious context. Ešenvalds’ ability to write this music is a rare gift, one that allows us to view centuries-old human stories from a new perspective: in his music, indeed, the doors of heaven are opened in all their beauty and complexity.
Stereophile's John Atkinson was one of two engineers on this recording and Erick Lichte its producer. All I can say is, listening to The Doors of Heaven puts me as close to the sublime as any recording ever has. Bravo!

Available in all its 24/88 glory from HDtracks.

Listen here:

JR_Audio's picture

Amazing, Bought it right away. We (in our choir), do sing some songs from Eric Whitacre, had even some singing lessons with him, when he was on tour, but this work from Esenvalds tops with harmonically interwoven arrangements. Great.

Timcognito's picture

I would like to thank you Michael for recommending this, Mr. Ešenvalds for writing, Portland State Choir and chamber orchestra for singing and playing, Mr. Atkinson for engineering (also whose print and internet writings have always been a favorite, as well as the Cantus recordings) and Naxos for rarely releasing a clinker in sound quality and in fact, just the opposite. This one makes my system sing and my emotions soar.

deckeda's picture

Tidal is a luxury I don't have, but did some previewing on Spotify's free service. I listened to 5 tracks and went shopping, for a gift.

Gifting music, particularly downloads, is a thing "not invented here" by nearly all people who own/run download sites. But that's a curiosity for another day.

No one I know, who I want to give music to, are audiophiles. They certainly don't play files at home unless playing YouTube videos on their phone counts. At best, one of them plays lossless files to a crappy setup of TV speakers via AppleTV, which butchers the music by needlessly resampling anything to 16/48. That said, they long ago chucked their CD players.

Physical CDs? I'll bring my old and large external DVD drive, to rip it for them, 'cause one of the musicks I'm gifting is an OOP title (the 1990s were so long ago, and Verve is a "little known" label with few resources??) and so, it's available as a used CD, only.

Where was I ?

Related to all of that, I once again perused the 101 article, which yet again led me to the "where I download" article,

I rarely buy Classical music, so clicked on the 3 classic store links (one goes nowhere, by the way) and found the title in question (Ešenvalds' The Doors of Heaven) for only $5.86. Wait, what?

And as I type this, all versions from MP3 to 24/88 are the same price.

My bank and eClassical use "Verified by Visa" except that didn't work for me. PayPal to the rescue. And then download all of the artwork separately.

And then of course, transfer/send all of it to the person I'm gifting it to.

dff's picture

There is another album from Hyperion of choral music by Ešenvalds. It duplicates some of this album but also includes 'Long Road, I love you night and day' which is popular (see YouTube) and quite beautiful.