Erkki Salmenhaara

Erkki Salmenhaara: Suomi-Finland; La fille en mini-jupe; Adagietto; Le bateau ivre

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Caught between the rock of tradition and the hard place of the avant-garde, Erkki Salmenhaara was torn in two directions in the turbulent 1960s, and only found a resolution to his conflicts in a return to straightforward melody, triadic harmony, and tonality. This 2004 disc from Ondine presents three of Salmenhaara's orchestral works from this conflicted period: the quasi-spectral Le bateau ivre (1965-1966), the lush but parodistic Suomi-Finlandia (1966), and the quotation-laden La fille en mini-jupe (1967). The openly tonal Adagietto (1981) is too late to be considered a breakthrough work, and it bears none of the ambiguity and searching of the other pieces. On a superficial hearing, Salmenhaara's music may seem conservative or even reactionary, because his melodies and harmonies directly summon up the spirits of Sibelius, Debussy, and Beethoven; and his subtle teasing and ironic touches may go unnoticed without some idea of his controversial stance in a revolutionary time. In light of the general return to tonality after 1980, however, Salmenhaara's works seem prescient, and they may have found their intended audience at last. The Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eri Klas, performs these fascinating works with sympathy, skill, and commitment, and Ondine provides clear and natural recording.

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