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Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, December 2018

The Portland Chamber Choir and excellent soloists are magnificent, as is the recorded sound. This is lush choral music that celebrates the drama and spirit of the holidays. © 2018 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, November 2018

The Portland Chamber Choir under Ethan Sperry give us ravishing readings of four Esenvalds works written over the recent present of 2006 to 2015. They flow together into a movingly ambient whole, each slightly different but all in the way of a piece.

So heartily do I recommend this. © 2018 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Jessica Duchen
Classical Ear, December 2017

The young singers acquit themselves with secure idiomatic feeling in the dark-hued luminescence of The First Tears, a luxurious re-telling of an Inuit legend, and with glowing, watercolour delicacy in Rivers of Light, a glorious evocation of the Northern Lights beautifully juxtaposing Sami folk tradition and the diaries of English explorers. They make light work, too, of the satisfyingly complex blending of male and female voices in A Drop in the Ocean, composed in tribute to Mother Teresa. The four-part, 30-minute, string orchestra-accompanied Passion and Resurrection shows the Portland singers at their most mature, with Hannah Consenz the admirable soloist. © 2017 Classical Ear Read complete review

Ivan Moody
Gramophone, November 2017

One might have thought that trying to beat the Latvians at their own game was an impossible task, but this outstanding disc proves that composers such as Esenvalds speak very clearly across cultures.

The Portland choir begin with the ritualistic, colourful The First Tears (2015). Its text comes from an Inuit folk legend, dealing with what happens immediately after the creation of the world (in this case by a raven). The choir is used as a vast palette of colours and you can really hear the singers enjoying their separate contributions to this. …Rivers of Light (2014) is an evocation of the Northern Lights from two different perspectives—those of the Sami people and of British explorers experiencing them for the first time. The texts are therefore drawn from Sami folk tradition and descriptions of the Lights found in explorers’ journals, a juxtaposition exploited in the combination of two different musical styles, the Sami texts being intoned by soloists. As conductor Ethan Sperry notes, ‘Esenvalds writes his most expansive and beautiful chords in an attempt to capture their vision of heaven through the medium of music’. I can think of no better description of this work, but it is important to note that it is the stylistic juxtaposition that makes it more than merely a fluffy evocation of tranquil beauty: the composer has struck that balance perfectly.

This is a superb disc, containing impassioned performances, beautifully recorded, and I very much hope that it will bring the work of the PSCC and Ethan Sperry before the wide international audience it deserves. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Vernier, September 2017

As the composer’s own, and ingeniously constructed, setting of the biblical Passion story, for soprano, vocal quartet, choir, and string orchestra, it makes some profound and affecting musical and dramatic points, but those solos—gorgeously sung by soprano Hannah Consenz—seem to meander…

But that’s a small criticism in the context of mostly exceptional music—and extraordinary performances by the Portland State Chamber Choir, whose virtuoso work here—including several outstanding solos in addition to the one mentioned above—place it among the world’s finest choral ensembles. …If you have yet to experience the work of this fascinating composer or of this excellent choir, here is the place to start—an altogether enlightening and enjoyable release. © 2017 Read complete review

James Manheim, September 2017

The X factor here is the strong, enthusiastic performance by the Portland State Chamber Choir and soloists, with instruments, under conductor Ethan Sperry, who has won praise locally for adventurous programming. The student singers respond by punching above their weight vocally, and this is surely an ensemble to watch on the U.S. West Coast. © 2017 Read complete review

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, September 2017

This is a super disc. All the music is compelling and the work of a composer who really knows how to exploit the sound of a choir to the full and in most imaginative but not outlandish ways. All the pieces that Ethan Sperry has chosen have been recorded already by distinguished choirs. However, this fine Portland choir competes most effectively with its rivals. The singing throughout is excellent and the various members of the choir who are called into the spotlight to sing solos all acquit themselves very well. Anyone wanting to explore the extraordinary music of Ēriks Ešenvalds could start here with confidence. The performers been very well recorded and the release is accompanied by very good documentation. In all respects, therefore, this disc is a conspicuous success.

This is my first encounter with the Portland State Chamber Choir; I hope it won’t be my last. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Stephen Pritchard
The Guardian, August 2017

…[album] takes its title from the most successful work in the collection, Rivers of Light, a gorgeous evocation of the northern lights. Less focused is [Ešenvalds’] incoherent Passion and Resurrection, though impressive throughout is the splendid singing of the Portland State Chamber Choir. © 2017 The Guardian Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2017

A Latvian composer of our time, Eriks Esenvalds is creating an international career in the world of solo vocal and choral music, both represented on this new release. If you are into the world of Arvo Pärt and John Tavener, you will much enjoy this release. The disc’s opening work, The First Tears, is an apocryphal story of how the world came to know grief and sadness, the work scored for mixed chorus and featuring a native American flute with dramatic percussion interjections. Short, and calling for soprano and baritone soloists, Rivers of Light pictures a sight familiar to me with the beauty of the Northern Lights, the lights appearing in the sky as darkness descends over Northern Europe. The equally short, A Drop in the Ocean, is in memory of Mother Teresa, its quiet conclusion leading to the Passion and Resurrection, an extended score in four sections for soprano, chorus and string ensemble. Largely taken from the various parts of the holy bible, and assembled by the composer, it relates events leading up to the death of Christ and his Resurrection. This is a score embedded in a church location, and here benefits from the beautiful acoustic of St. Stephen’s in Portland, Oregon. It takes Esenvalds towards Penderecki’s influence, with moments of outgoing drama in the crucifixion, a solo soprano taking the part of Mary Magdalene, an exacting role for Hannah Consenz, as we hear. This is my welcome introduction to the composer, the American performances and recording coming from dedicated advocates. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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