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László LAJTHA (1892-1963)
Symphony No. 6 op. 61 (1955) [36:12]
Symphony No. 5 op. 55 (1952) [27:15]
Lysistrata - ballet - Ouverture prestissimo (1933) [4:25]
Pécs Symphony Orchestra/Nicolás Pasquet
rec. Ferenc Liszt Concert Hall, Pécs, Hungary, March and May 1996
NAXOS 8.573646 [68:11]

Project Lajtha unfurls in front of us again. Its first appearance came in the 1990s on full price Marco Polo. Now here is the fourth of the series to resurface on Naxos. The others are Symphony 1 8.573643; Symphony 2 8.573644; Symphonies 3 and 4 8.573645. Stepping into orderly place comes 8.573646 taking us as far forward as Symphony No. 6; there are nine symphonies in total.

Lajtha, born in Budapest, studied in his birth city and then in Leipzig, Geneva and Paris. His publisher was Leduc based in Paris and his Gallic inclinations are obvious from this music. Both of the symphonies here carry French movement titles. More to the point the music shows the generous extent to which his sympathies lay with French modes and manners.

The first movement of the genial Sixth - by no means a work of 1950s tragedy - is a breezily bluff Trčs vif which scuffs joyously along in the style of Poulenc at one moment and Honegger the next. The following Trčs calme is the longest at 12:40. It's a very individual mix of impressionistic flurries, metallic shivers and fleeting barks and yaps. The saxophone returns in thoughtful mood from the first movement and keeps putting in an appearance throughout. The third movement is a rather limply relaxed Allegretto grazioso - the only Italian mood marking. It has a rather Kodály-like folksy melody and continues the reflective stance of the second movement. The raucous romp of the final Vif et bien rythmé flutters along suggesting Lajtha was an admirer of Ibert.

If the Sixth is a work of twinkling affability the two-movement Fifth, which is dedicated to composer Henri Barraud, another French connection, is a work cut from a different cloth. Its bleak ways at times suggest a blend of Vaughan Williams' Fourth and Bartók at his most brusque. Relaxation comes but an air of quiet threat still hangs heavily in the air. The first movement, brass dominated, ends with harsh hopeless statements. The second and final movement is a Vite et agité. True to its word, the pulse is quick and Hungarian folk accents are in play. Protest is part of the weave and the mood is in constant shift in a fine rather than dramatic motion. This takes the listener to some dreamy moments (5:34). At the close of the finale serenity makes way for the clash and clangour of the opening movement: ignorant armies clash by night.

Lajtha's ballet Lysistrata is represented by its little overture. The whole thing is done and dusted in 4:25. This streams along in full flood and jolly flicker and again the accents are Gallic. Dancing brass and flurries of high strings bring this zesty little gem to a brilliant close. It would make a good substitute for Bernstein's Candide Overture, Foulds' Le Cabaret or Barber's School for Scandal Overture.

There's a good English-only note by Emöke Solymosi Tari.

These are supple, spirited and more than able accounts and never seem time serving. The recording still sounds good with silvery whispers and plenty of punch.

The Naxos Lajtha symphony project takes another confident step forward.

Rob Barnett



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