Music

PASSION AND RESURRECTION

A WORK BY LATVIAN COMPOSER ĒRIKS EŠENVALDS, TO BE PERFORMED BY THE BACH CHOIR, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, LONDON, 6TH MARCH, OFFERS A NEW TAKE ON FAITH AS A PATH TO SALVATION

The Bach Choir is delighted to be offering a work of Ēriks Ešenvalds as part of its concert titled Darkness to Light. 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.

Ēriks Ešenvalds
Ēriks Ešenvalds

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 Ešenvaldsstudied 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.

Founded in 1876 The Bach Choir is recognised as one of the world’s leading choruses. It regularly performs classical repertoire in major London and international venues and has recorded widely, from a series of English music discs for Naxos to a range of music for film scores including: The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, Robin Hood, The Chronicles of Narnia, Shrek the Third, and Jack the Giant Slayer.  In 2011, The Bach Choir collaborated with John Rutter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on The Colours of Christmas, which reached No 3 in the Official Classical Charts.

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 RichardDanielpour, 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.