Erik Hall ~ Canto Ostinato

I’m gonna break with our usual format here, dear reader, and embed the album stream right at the top and suggest you immediately click play. I’ve switched it up because while sometimes it is useful to have a little context, at times the music is so obviously wonderful that it speaks for itself, and that is very much the case in this new album from Erik Hall, an early candidate for my album of the year and one that reminds me of why I love music: it is so beautiful that it fills me with joy.


A sequel to Hall’s 2020 album Music for 18 Musicians, an acclaimed and award-winning rearrangement of Steve Reich’s genre-defining Minimalist work of the same name, Canto Ostinato turns towards one of Netherlands’ most famous 20th century composers, Simeon ten Holt.

Canto Ostinato, which was composed in 1976, gives a great deal of freedom to the performers to choose which instruments to use, how often to repeat the 106 sections of the work, and how to shape the music’s dynamics and articulation.  As a result, each performance is unique. Hall has leaned into this, choosing a pallet of instruments that is both retro and contemporary: a felted Steinway grand piano, a 1962 Hammond M-101 organ, and a 1978 Rhodes Mark I electric piano. It’s a perfect combination: the similarities and differences in timbre are fascinating, and the shifting patterns feel kaleidoscopic, reflected in the entrancing artwork by Aaron Lowell Denton. Listening to it is like watching light dancing: it reminds us that the world we live in is full of a beauty so subtle, so wonderful, as to be profound. Highly recommended. (Garreth Brooke)


  1. Pingback: Erik Hall ~ Canto Ostinato - Kala Su Abhivyakti

  2. Curious to hear the full album, but from what I hear on the two preview tracks I think this interpretation is a bit too hasty and sped up, while the original renditions are somewhat more resigned and unhurried. There are MANY different versions of the Canto (especially since it became overly popular in recent years), and interpretations on many different instruments, but I strongly advise checking out the original (3-hour!) version for 4 pianos as recorded in 1988.
    This one, I mean:

  3. This album sounds amazing! I love how Erik Hall has found a way to bring the work of Simeon ten Holt to life with a unique pallet of instruments. It’s so inspiring to hear such beautiful music and I’m excited to explore it further. My question is, what inspired Erik Hall to create a sequel to his 2020 album Music for 18 Musicians?

    • Garreth

      Good question, which reminds me that I neglected to mention in the review that he’s actually planning to make a trilogy of what his record label describes as “classical minimalism interpretations”. I guess that means watch this space for a review of the third one!

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