Erkki Salmenhaara



Erkki Salmenhaara (1941-2002) was a composer and musicologist. He studied composition with Joonas Kokkonen at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and with György Ligeti in Vienna . He also studied musicology at the University of Helsinki, where he was awarded his doctorate in 1970. In 1966-75 he was a lecturer at the University, and became Associate Professor in 1975. Salmenhaara has published a wealth of articles and books on composers, the history of Finnish music, new music, and harmony.

Having joined the emergent avant-garde movement in the early 1960s, Erkki Salmenhaara proceeded via experimentalism and web technique to a tonal motif technique. His move towards web technique is most pronounced in Elegia II (1963), in which the entire texture is determined according to its breadth, harmonic and rhythmic density, dynamics and timbre.

A stylistic turning-point came with Le bateau ivre (1965, revised 1966), inspired by Rimbaud. Its timbres, now associated more with the mixtures of Impressionism, are melodically and harmonically constructed from triads. Later in the 1970s Salmenhaara’s music became more concentrated and tonality became so established that key signatures reappeared. The presence of tradition and sense of nostalgia are particularly marked in the First String Quartet (1977) with its echoes of Mendelssohn, and the Cello Concerto (1983–7), which alludes to Franck. The soft harmony of Salmenhaara’s music, combined with a steady crotchet beat (as in the Fifth Symphony “Isle of Bliss”/”Lintukoto”, 1989), creates a mood that is dream-like and lyrically surrealistic.

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