Wednesday, December 27, 2017

László Lajtha: Orchestral Music, Vol. 6 - a Fine Finale

This release brings Naxos' reissue series of László Lajtha symphonies to a close. If you missed the 2000 pressings on Marco Polo, these reissues are worth the investment.

Lajtha finished nine symphonies before his death in 1963. His symphonic output seemed to alternate between despair and optimism, and his last two continue that pattern.

The Symphony No. 8, completed in 1959, continues the themes of Symphony No. 7. László Lajtha supported the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolt failed to overthrow the communist regime, and the retaliation was brutal. Lajtha was stripped of his positions and his ability to travel abroad.

His Seventh Symphony, "Autumn" was written in reaction to those events. His Eighth Symphony further develops his themes of anger and despair mingled with hope. The orchestration is imaginative and mercurial. Solo instruments unexpectedly arise out of the ensemble then disappear again. Peaceful passages are disrupted by frantic outbursts. It's a powerful work that needs no program to deliver its emotional impact.

In his final years, the shadow over Lajtha was lifted, and he could travel again. Only then did he understand that, while silenced in his native Hungary, his symphonies had been performed regularly throughout Western Europe. His final symphony wasn't an Ode to Joy but was certainly joyful.

It's also a summation of Lajtha's style. the work includes Hungarian folk elements that were a constant inspiration to this ethnomusicologist. The jarring polytonalities of his previous two symphonies return, to be resolved in a reassuring fashion. The closing hymn is inspiring, yet at the same time has a calm assurance about it.

Another set of fine performances by the Pécs Symphony Orchestra and Nicolás Pasquet. I was especially moved by the quiet passages, such as the interludes in the finale of the eighth symphony. It's in the quiet, delicate moments that the true musicianship of this ensemble stands revealed.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Music, Vol. 6
Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor
Naxos 8.573648

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