Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds has gained fans in Western Europe and North America as well as in the Baltic countries with choral music and music in other genres that draws on an eclectic group of styles for specific expressive ends.
Esenvalds was born January 26, 1977, in Priekule, Latvia. At first planning a career in the ministry, he studied for two years at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary, switching to music and earning a master's degree in composition from the Latvian Academy of Music in 2004. He went on to enroll in master classes with a group of Western composers who included Michael Finnissy. Esenvalds' instinct for writing for voices came partly from a nine-year stint as a member of the Latvian State Choir, from 2002 to 2011. During this period, Esenvalds began teaching composition at the Latvian Academy of Music. One breakthrough for Esenvalds in the West was his designation as a New Composer of the Year discovery by The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. From 2011 to 2013, he served as Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, where his work has been especially popular.
In addition to inclusion on choral compilations, Esenvalds has been featured on six albums devoted to his work alone. These include the much-honored Northern Lights, performed by Trinity College Choir, Cambridge; Passion and Resurrection, with the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony; the St. Luke Passion by the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Riga; At the Foot of the Sky performed by the State Choir of Latvia; O Salutaris; and, in 2017, The Doors of Heaven, recorded by the Portland State University Chamber Choir in Oregon, U.S.A. The album was Esenvalds' first to be recorded with a North American ensemble, but with its novel setting of a Navajo origin myth it seemed unlikely to be the last. Esenvalds' plans for 2018 included a new multimedia symphony taking volcanoes for its subject matter.