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