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Erkki Salmenhaara

Erkki Olavi Salmenhaara
Born March 12, 1941, Helsinki. Died March 19, 2002, Helsinki.

BA 1964, licentiate 1965, PhD 1970 (Musicology), University of Helsinki
Cello studies 1948–54, Helsinki Conservatory of Music

Diploma degree in Composition from the Sibelius Academy, 1963
Musicology assistant 1961–66, lecturer 1966–74, assistant professor 1975–98, and professor 1998–99, University of Helsinki
Music critic at the Ylioppilaslehti student newspaper 1959–61, Kauppalehti daily 1962–63, and the Helsingin Sanomat daily 1963–72
Editorial staff of the Musiikki journal 1971–75 and 1987–98, Associate editor 1975–76, Editor-in-chief 1977–1987
Chair of the Society of Finnish Composers 1974–76 and member of the board of directors 1966–74, 1990–96
Chair of the Association of Finnish Symphony Orchestras 1974–78
Editorial staff of the ‘Big Encyclopaedia of Music’ (Otava) 1975–1980
Advisory board member of the ‘Great Encyclopaedia of Music’ (Weilin+Göös) 1989–1992
Jean Sibelius Collection planning committee member 1992–96 and editorial staff 1996–2000
Additional membership in the board of directors of many music organisations

Finnish Cultural Foundation Special Achievement Award 2002
Finlandia Prize, non-fiction category, for Suomen musiikin historia ‘The history of Finnish music’ (with F. Dahlström and M. Heiniö) 1997
Professor of the year 1996
Finnish Music Library Association’s Music Library Prize 1995
First Class Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland 1990
State Award for Public Information (for the biography of Leevi Madetoja) 1988
Public education fund’s Tammi Foundation Award 1984

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju, Music Finland
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by

From The isle of bliss to the history of music

Erkki Salmenhaara had already composed dozens of works when he began music composition studies at the Sibelius Academy at the turn of the 1960’s. He also took courses in musicology at the University of Helsinki. After completing his Bachelor’s degree (1964), he quickly received his licentiate (1965) and defended his doctoral thesis in 1970 with the study Das musikalische Material und seine Behandlung in den Werken ‘Apparitions’, ‘Atmospheres’, ‘Aventures’ und ‘Requiem’ von György Ligeti. The dissertation is still considered one of the most notable pieces of research on the work of the Hungarian composer György Ligeti.

Erkki Salmenhaara’s compositional work was vast both in quantity and also in the use of musical genres. In addition to piano, chamber and choir music, he also composed electronic music and symphonies. Salmenhaara experimented daringly with new compositional techniques alongside traditional music. His compositions from the late 1960’s generally met with critical acclaim, but in the 1970’s, when Salmenhaara’s style became simpler and the compositional elements more repetitive and became less intricate, the critics were quick to judge the composer, who had previously been a young radical, as a conservative turncoat. One of Erkki Salmenhaara’s best musical works was the Lintukoto ‘Isle of Blisssymphony (1989), which was composed for the 350th anniversary of the University of Helsinki. Salmenhaara was employed by the University of Helsinki through his entire composing career. He worked as an assistant, lecturer, associate professor and professor in musicology from 1961-99, although it was only in the 1980s that he had time to delve more deeply into research. Salmenhaara’s eminent work in pedagogy and research was appreciated, and he was named professor of the year in 1996.

In addition to writing research papers, Salmenhaara also published musicology textbooks and worked as a music critic for Ylioppilaslehti, Kauppalehti and Helsingin Sanomat. He was considered one of Finland’s best and most influential music critics.

Salmenhaara’s most notable academic works are the biographies of Jean Sibelius (1984), Leevi Madetoja (1987), and Väinö Raitio (2002). Salmenhaara assisted Erik Tawaststjerna with the compilation of Sibelius’s biography and edited the fifth part of Tawaststjerna’s biography. He also wrote a work on the history of Finnish music, Suomen musiikin historia I – IV (1995-1996), together with Fabian Dahlström, and Mikko Heiniö. The book was the first of its kind in Finland, and it earned the authors the 1997 Tieto-Finlandia prize. A few weeks before his death, Salmenhaara officially acknowledged by the Finnish Cultural Foundation for his lifework.

Photo: Maarit Kytöharju, Music Finland.



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