Composers and Authors /

Esenvalds, Eriks (1977)

Biography   Works  

(photo credit Knox College)
Ēriks Ešenvalds was born on January 26th, 1977 in Priekule, Latvia.

Ēriks Ešenvalds is one of the most sought-after composers working today, with a busy commission schedule and performances of his music heard on every continent. Born in Priekule, Latvia in 1977, he studied at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary (1995–97) before obtaining his Master’s degree in composition (2004) from the Latvian Academy of Music under the tutelage of Selga Mence. He took master-classes with Michael Finnissy, Klaus Huber, Philippe Manoury, and Jonathan Harvey, amongst others. From 2002–11 he was a member of the State Choir Latvija. In 2011 he was awarded the two-year position of Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He is married with four children and gives students his expertise as composition teacher at the Latvian Academy of Music.

Ēriks Ešenvalds has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times (2005, 2007, and 2015). The International Rostrum of Composers awarded him first prize in 2006 for his work The Legend of the Walled-in Woman. He was The Year’s New-Composer Discovery of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ compositions have been premiered by ensembles including Boston Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, the Britten Sinfonia, The King’s Singers, Latvian Voices, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, the Holst Singers, Imogen Heap, Polyphony, the Choir of Merton College Oxford, the Latvian Radio Choir, the State Choir Latvija, the Kamēr... Youth Choir, Sinfonietta Riga, the Bavarian Radio Choir, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Opera and Ballet, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Ora Singers, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, the Netherlands National Children’s Choir, Shenzhen Lily Choir, New Zealand Youth Choir, the Swedish Art Vocal Ensemble, the Choir of Trinity College Melbourne, Salt Lake Vocal Artists, Temple University Concert Choir, The Crossing, Chor Leoni, Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, Portland State University Chamber Choir, the Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, ChorWerk Ruhr, Cor Vivaldi, The University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, Yale Glee Club, the Miami University Men’s Glee Club, The University of Mississippi Concert Singers, Lincoln’s Inn Choir, Wartburg College Choir, Oklahoma State University Concert Chorale, Classical Movements, Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, Louisville University Cardinal Singers, Cabrillo Chorus, and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra. He composed the score for the Crystal Bear-awarded film Mellow Mud.
Ēriks Ešenvalds’ music has been performed at numerous international festivals including Klangspuren in Austria, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, Tenso Days in France, the Haarlem Choir Biennale in the Netherlands, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, International Sacred Music Festival in Latvia, the World Choir Games, IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music, the Cheltenham Music Festival and Voices Now in the UK, the ACDA National and Regional Conferences and Spoleto Festival in the US, and The Singing Network in Canada. 

Ēriks Ešenvalds is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading workshops on his music. At the 2014 World Choir Games held in Riga, he composed the Games anthem, gave a major presentation on his work, acted on competition juries, and had a large-scale production premiered by the Latvian Voices and The King’s Singers. The 2015 ACDA National Conference in Salt Lake City premiered his Whispers on the Prairie Wind, where he also gave a presentation on his music, and took part in a composer roundtable forum. He was a speaker at the 2017 IFCM World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona, Choral Connect 2017 in Auckland, and the Singing Network International Symposium 2015 in St John’s, Canada. He served as a jury member at the 2017 Musica Sacra Nova International Composers Competition at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, the Cantat International Choral Festival and Symposium 2017 in Manado, Indonesia, and the 2016 Rimini International Choral Competition.

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ compositions appear on many recordings released by labels such as Hyperion, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Delphian Records, Pentatone, Ondine, and Naxos. To date, seven recordings are devoted exclusively to his work: Northern Lights from Trinity College Choir Cambridge (Gramophone Award Shortlist, Gramophone Critics’ Choice, ICI Radio-Canada Best Albums Selection), Passion and Resurrection with the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony, St Luke Passion by the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Opera News Critic’s Choice), The Doors of Heaven from Portland State Chamber Choir (Gramophone Editor’s Choice), From the dim and distant past and At the Foot of the Sky by State Choir Latvija (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year), and O Salutaris by the Kamēr... Youth Choir (Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year).

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ premieres this season include works commissioned by the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Gewandhaus Leipzig, Grant Park Music Festival Chicago, Latvian Song and Dance Festival, South Dakota Chorale, Cathedral Choral Society Washington DC, as well as a set of songs for Independent Opera, for premiere in Wigmore Hall, London. As part of a Canada tour, he will attend the performance of his multimedia symphony Nordic Light, as well as a screening of the documentary film Nordic Light: A Composer’s Diary, which follows the composer on his expeditions to the Arctic region. Later this year he will be back in Canada to speak at the national 2018 Podium Choral Conference and Festival in St John’s, Newfoundland. His second major opera The Immured, which was premiered at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet in 2016, will be on stage this season. 2018 also sees the premiere of his next multimedia symphony based on the natural phenomenon of volcanoes.

Ēriks Ešenvalds is published by Musica Baltica in global partnership with Edition Peters.

“… an inventive Latvian composer with an ear for a good hook and a knack for evocative effects.”

— The New York Times


“His rich, sonorous choral writing is in almost permanent ecstasy, with sopranos sailing over great waves of cluster chords, a colouristic vision …”

— The Guardian


“Ešenvalds is clearly the next big thing in musical mysticism …”

— The Times


“Ešenvalds responds to the purpose of the words he sets, occupying similar choral territory to the likes of Whitacre and Shchedrin, character rather than ego dominating …”



“Outrageously, exhaustingly beautiful, this disc [Northern Lights] pairs the best of Latvia’s contemporary choral composers with the best of young British choirs.”

— Gramophone


“Ešenvalds displays an impressive command and variety of musical language …”

— Choir & Organ


“In terms of imagination and aural allure [is] beyond anything I have heard since the halcyon age of the young Benjamin Britten.”

— The Oldie