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Erkki Salmenhaara

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Biography

Salmenhaara studied composition with Joonas Kokkonen at the Sibelius Academy, and with György Ligeti in Vienna, and received his doctorate in from the University of Helsinki in 1970. He served as lecturer (1966-75) and associate professor (1975-2002) of musicology at the University of Helsinki and was also the leading writer on classical music in Finland. In addition, he served as chairman of the Society of Finnish Composers (1974–76) and of the Association of Finnish Symphony Orchestras (1974–78).

Salmenhaara’s published writings include textbooks on music theory, a history of 20th century music, monographs on Ligeti, Jean Sibelius’s Tapiola and the Brahms symphonies, biographies of Jean Sibelius and Leevi Madetoja, and a history of the Society of Finnish Composers. His most ambitious publication was his contribution on the period from the Romantic era to the Second World War to the four-volume history of Finnish music, published in 1995 and 1996. In addition, he served a critic for the leading Finnish daily, Helsingin Sanomat, from 1963 to 1973.

Beginning in the 1970s, Salmenhaara’s works began to be characterized by frequent repetition of triadic motives with gradual changes in harmony. Although this led to his being linked to the movement in music known as minimalism, Salmenhaara nonetheless denied this connection. Like the works of the Dutch minimalist composer Simeon ten Holt, Salmenhaara’s works from this period utilize a musical language closely related to that of the Romantic period of classical music, giving his music a decidedly European aesthetic.

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