ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Esenvalds - Passion and Resurrection


ERIKS ESENVALDS - Passion and Resurrection - Stephen Layton (Conductor) - Carolyn Sampson (Soprano) - Polyphony - Britten Sinfonia - 034571177960 - Released: April 2011 - Hyperion CDA67796

In just a little over three minutes, Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds (1977-), by means of a perfectly seamless transition, time travels through 500 years of human religious history, and demonstrates that even though everything has changed, it still remains the same. Passion and Resurrection opens with segments of a four-voice choral work by sixteenth-century composer Cristobal de Morales, a typical musical example of dark, mysterious, late middle ages reverance for God, which slowly and almost imperceptibly metamorphoses, by the gradual inclusion of strings, into 21st century doubt and remorse, with a style of writing that very much resembles Arvo Pärt's choral music. And all of this in just the introduction of this great new work that embodies a coming together of old and new. A work that juggles very well a range of extreme emotions from deep serenity to violent anger, and takes advantage of the text's power to sustain the music's energy.

With her powerful and totally convincing interpretation of her role in this music, soprano Carolyn Sampson once again demonstrates that she is one of today's best multi-faceted singers, and can slip from Vivaldi to Esenvalds and everything in between without effort. And as in last year's superb recording of the David Briggs Mass, the choir Polyphony under the leadership of their gifted conductor Stephen Layton, once again clearly demonstrate that new music, when performed by musicians of this caliber, need not be intimidating or alienating to its audience.

The remainder of the CD contains five shorter individual choral works, all written within the last seven years. They also clearly indicate Eriks Esenvalds confident and mature writing skills, and eschew today's tendency to overdo the material, and simply impress by their inner conviction. With composers like this on the scene today, we need not fear that good music will cease to exist.

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2011