Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 8 (1959) [38.29]
Symphony No. 9 (1961) [26.17]
Pécs SO/Nicolás Pasquet
rec Pécs, Hungary, Oct 1996
MARCO POLO 8.223673 [64.52]
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I do not immediately associate Hungary with the 20th century symphony however Lajtha wrote an 'immortal nine' and Marco Polo have recorded all of them.

The Eighth is extremely colourful and astoundingly well recorded. This is just as well as Lajtha writes colourful music lucidly orchestrated and with a spirit of fancy and imagination. The textures are iridescent and tuneful. More often than not he presses forward his ideas using chamber techniques with much work for the orchestra's principals. Stylistically he is more Gallic than ethnically middle-European (although this influence does colour the score in the violent et tourmenté finale) with flashes of Rimskian light. There is no (or little) trace of Shostakovich but surprisingly, I thought more than twice about Vaughan Williams. In the second movement at 5.39 he spins a lovely tragic melody high in the pp violins and in the finale at 1.53 and later (6.32) in the same movement a capriciously voluptuous violin solo. The third movement is marked Très agitée et toujours angoissé and for this Lajtha darkens the previously light-filled landscape making it dank, and ghoulish. There is still much work for solos including oboe, flute and harp.

The three movement Ninth continues the dark pilgrimage with tragedy weighing down its wings intensified by sardonic humour. The central lento provides some respite but the blooming solo lines avoid glaring colours veering instead towards purple and auburn. Generally this symphony employs tonality but there are moments when Lajtha dallies with dissonance.

In no way could either symphony be described as hard going.

I recommend this music highly and am more than curious about the earlier six volumes on this label..

On this evidence the recording engineers and acoustic architects of the world should be flying to Pécs to use and study this fine concert hall. The sound of this recording is magnificent.

Rob Barnett

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