Wednesday, September 13, 2017

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 - Study in Contrasts

This installment of Naxos' László Lajtha symphony reissues presents three sides of the composer. Wisely, the three works aren't programmed in order.

The disc leads off with Lajtha's Symphony No. 6, completed in 1955. The imaginative orchestration gives the ensemble an open sound, especially with the brass. The outer movements crackle with high-energy rambunctiousness, encasing the sparkling middle movements.

Lajtha wrote that his Symphony No. 5 was "very tragic, epic, like a ballad." Perhaps so, but to me, it also had an elegiac quality to it. It reminded me of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antarctica," which, like Lajtha's work, was written in 1952.

It was a bad time for Lajtha. He had spent a year in London, working on the film score to "Murder in the Cathedral" (which he would turn into his fourth symphony). The Communist authorities considered him "contaminated" and stripped him of all official positions. Symphony No. 5 reflects that unsettled dread, yet its lyrical passages seem cautiously hopeful.

The final work sweeps away the gloom. Lajtha's 1933 ballet score for Lysistrata bustles with good humor, continually winking at the audience.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra perform well for the most part. The first violins strings seemed to sound a little wobbly in the upper register. It was especially obvious in exposed passages that were meant to be played delicately and softly.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4
Symphony No. 6, Op. 61; Symphony No. 5, Op. 55; Lysistrata - Ballet Op. 19
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor 
Naxos 8.573645

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