Only in sleep was written in 2010 for the University of Louisville Collegiate Chorale and Cardinal Singers. Sara Teasdale’s nostalgic vision of childhood re-experienced through dreams is expressed in simple verse in regular metre, and Ešenvalds matches this in music of regular four-bar phrases. But infinitely subtle are the chord voicings; a change from humming to vocalise to spotlight a phrase here, or internal doublings to highlight a particular line in the texture there—all serve to sustain the freshness, and the soaring descants are achingly expressive. The soprano soloist heard at the opening returns at the close, lost in reverie, as her musing, florid arabesques float over one last pair of chordal oscillations, winding down to nothing.
from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2015
To celebrate the release of ‘Northern Lights’, our recording of the music of Ēriks Ešenvalds on Hyperion, here is a video of one of the works from the CD, recorded in Trinity College Chapel.
Text: Only in sleep
Only in sleep I see their faces,
Children I played with when I was a child,
Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,
Annie with ringlets warm and wild.
Only in sleep Time is forgotten—
What may have come to them, who can know?
Yet we played last night as long ago,
And the dollhouse stood at the turn of the stair.
The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces,
I met their eyes and found them mild—
Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder,
And for them am I too a child?
Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)