On August 12, Portland State Chamber Choir releases the first recording made by an American chorus that is exclusively devoted to composer and three-time Latvian Grand Music Award-winner Ēriks Ešenvalds, whose “rich, sonorous choral writing is in almost permanent ecstasy” (Guardian). The Doors of Heaven arrives on Naxos, and features Ešenvalds’ distinctive synthesis of musical styles – equally blending elements of lush choral texture with a 20th-century angular tonality.
With conductor Ethan Sperry, the Portland State Chamber Choir was hailed by The Oregonian for providing “the finest choral concerts in Portland in recent memory.” The four works on The Doors of Heaven are all performed by the choir, whose 2014 release Into Unknown Worlds was named a “Record To Die For” by Stereophile. The Doors of Heaven is produced by Erick Lichte, and engineered by John Atkinson & Doug Toutelot, with recordings taking place in January and May 2016 at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Portland.
Ešenvalds is known for creating his own librettos, and brings four of his longer narrative works to The Doors of Heaven: one (Rivers of Light) about the beauty of nature, two (A Drop in the Ocean and Passion and Resurrection) about religious faith, and one (The First Tears) a Native American legend that combines both faith and nature. The album’s longest work, Passion and Resurrection, presents Ešenvalds’ first oratorio.
This recording originated with the choir’s 2015 performance of Passion and Resurrection at a national choral conference. Naxos took note, and contacted Ešenvalds about an entire record of his music, and the choir was enthusiastically endorsed for this project by both the composer and the label.
“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.” – PSCC conductor Ethan Sperry