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The foreboding face of the influential Finnish composer and musicologist Erkki Salmenhaara on the front cover of this release seems rather to foretell the uncompromising music which comprises his solo organ oeuvre. By ordering the pieces chronologically, however, Jan Lehtola illustrates the gradual softening of Salmenhaara’s modernist idiom, which characterised his compositional development. The opening three-movement Toccata, written in 1965 shortly after the composer’s sojourn as a pupil of Ligeti, is all concrete brutalism, clusters and all. Later works such as the Canzona (with its extended repetition of a lilting rhythmic figure over a pedal point) and the 1985 Introduction & (fleeting) Toccata are altogether more human or ‘neo-simplistic’ as the critics put it. Lehtola’s playing and programme notes are outstanding, and the glassy chill of the Virtanen organ at Turku fits the music like a glove.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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