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Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds is now thoroughly established as one of the world’s leading writers of choral music. His music has travelled far beyond his homeland, and this CD from the excellent Portland State Chamber Choir is the first to be recorded by an American choir. Their conductor, Ethan Sperry, has selected four pieces composed between 2005 and 2015, which reflect Ešenvalds’s interests in religion, legend and nature: The First Tears, Rivers of Light, A Drop in the Ocean and Passion and Resurrection. While this last is an oratorio centred around the Easter story, and the most extensive work presented here, it lacks the sharp focus of the shorter pieces on the CD. The First Tears, a setting of an Inuit legend about how grief came into the world, is one of Ešenvalds’s most engaging recent pieces. Although they cannot compete with the Latvian Radio Choir, who – judging by their recent Ešenvalds CD – are surely the gold standard in this repertoire, the Portland State Chamber Choir under Ethan Sperry nevertheless offer a finely sung, well-shaped hour’s programme. At a bargain price, this disc makes an excellent introduction for anyone wanting to investigate Ešenvalds’s soundworld.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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