It takes courage to stay true to one’s vision and realize it in a way that feels authentic. Aki Yli-Salomäki’s style evolved in the early 2000s and has remained the same without losing its sincerity. His works, for the most part written for orchestra or large ensemble, plumb subtle emotions of the mind with an aesthetic coherence rather unfashionable in contemporary art music.
This release by Eclipse Music provides a cross-section of Yli-Salomäki’s orchestral output. The title Valunta (‘Run-off’) is an apt description of an idiom in which expansive string writing and lingering wind melodies evoke premonitions from the peripheries of the mind. This isn’t mysticism, rather Yli-Salomäki is a kind of quiet everyday philosopher. In performances by the Lohja City Orchestra, conducted by Jukka Untamala, his works resemble extended aphorisms. A seemingly ordinary here-and-now moment reveals something more substantial. The music is approachable and artlessly beautiful, and Yli-Salomäki uses simple means in an effective manner. Separating him from ambient music are, among other things, his well-constructed, balanced forms.
Supported by the acoustic of the recording venue, the Karjalohja stone church, the Lohja City Orchestra deftly realizes the intimate, sincere mood of these compositions. Uneen… (‘Asleep’ 2015) floats in luminous cloudscapes without ever turning saccharine. This is feel-good music, but just as it is on the verge of turning to fluff or repeating itself, the composer succeeds in offering a delicate moment of insight. Take for example the sombre Speak, Memory (2007), in which the alternating states of awareness and doubt, both related to the act of remembering, are communicated through simple means.
The most recent work on the album, a more rhythmically rippling Tiedät kyllä miksi (‘You know why’ 2021) lets the orchestra plunge into a silvery layer of electronics. Harhoja (‘Delusions’ 2015) – a chamber work for wind quartet and string quartet – on the other hand, evolves from its innocent beginnings towards an increasingly distorted, obsessive state, while preserving the gentle, reflective nature of Yli-Salomäki’s music.
Lohja City Orchestra / Jukka Untamala, Conductor: Valunta – Aki Yli-Salomäki Orchestral Works
Eclipse Music 2022
Translation: Anni Heino