László LAJTHA (1892–1963)
Suite No. 3, Op. 56 (1955) [31:04]
Hortobágy – Film Music (Suite), Op. 21 (1934) [13:25]
Symphony No. 7, Op. 63 Revolution Symphony (1957) [31:12]
Pécs Symphony Orchestra/Nicolás Pasquet
rec. Ferenc Liszt Concert Hall, Pécs, Hungary, March 1994, DDD
NAXOS 8.573647 [75:41]
Lajtha's teacher in Paris before 1914 was Vincent d’lndy. While Lajtha's music does not have much to do with d'Indy it certainly has a French impress.
That Gallic side is pretty clear from the Milhaud/Satie world of the Trčs vif of the Suite No. 3. It is uproariously cut with the absurdist world Kodály's Háry János. The finale is marked Gai but the other three movements adopt the standard linguistic conventions to signal mood. After a cool Andante comes a gawkily caricatured Presto and a super-romantic Allegretto which owes more than a little to Kodály's Peacock Variations. The Gai movement is jokily high-spirited, looking back to the way the suite began but also indulging a silvery gleam. Lajtha's combination of zany good humour and emotional lilt should ensure that his music makes firm friends including among those many who enjoy Malcolm Arnold. What of the other suites? Suite No. 1 is drawn from the ballet Lysistrata. The second draws on a one-act ballet-comedy, The Park of the Four Gods.
The Hortobágy suite uses music written for a film about the Hortobágy Puszta - a great expanse of Hungarian grasslands. The first of two movements is potently atmospheric and evocative of an open landscape. The second is a gallop across the plains. It would make a nice companion to Waxman's Ride to Dubno, superbly done not so long ago by John Wilson at the Proms and before that by Charles Gerhardt on RCA. The Lajtha is perhaps a bit more nuanced than the Waxman.
The three-movement Seventh Symphony is said to owe its inspiration to the Hungarian Revolution and the Soviet insurgency that followed. For its premiere in 1958 György Lehel conducted the Hungarian Radio Orchestra in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. It's a tough nut and the opening Modéré - Agité and the short finale, Agité make few concessions. One of these is the grand string-led theme at 3:40 which speaks of aspiration and nobility. Tragic gloom, lashing violence and bitter disillusion otherwise hold sway - indeed parts of the first movement strongly recall Rozsa's music for his three film noirs of the late 1940s. The long Lent that follows loosens the grip but the mood remains chill. Once again there are prominent moments for the saxophone - some of them quite sour. It's strange that Lajtha did not write a concerto for the instrument. As far as I know he was never approached for that purpose by Sigurd Rascher who was very active in commissioning such works.
This disc takes its place in a Naxos series which began life on Marco Polo. There are nine symphonies in total: 8 and 9 will be next in line. The good notes are by Emőke Solymosi Tari. The excellent sound is well up to the very high standards evidenced in earlier Lajtha volumes.
The range of Lajtha - ever the tonal composer - is wide. The Symphony deals with tough issues and speaks accordingly while the other two pieces show Lajtha's more relaxed and brilliant aspect.
Reviews of other releases in this series
Symphony 1: 8.573643 - review
Symphony 2: 8.573644 - review
Symphonies 3 and 4: 8.573645- review
Symphonies 5 and 6: 8.573646- review
Symphonies 8 and 9: 8.223763 (Marco Polo) - review