Even more prolific than Kodály and every bit as popular as Bartok in many parts of the world, the works of László Lajtha have nonetheless had difficulty standing the test of time. Only recently have his compositions been given new life and the respect they so clearly deserve. Lajtha was a colleague of Bartók, aiding in his cataloging of Hungarian folk music, although Lajtha was much more interested in the instrumental vernacular than the vocal. Among the many genres in which this deep-rooted fascination in folk idioms prevails is in the string quartet, of which Lajtha wrote 10 across 30 years of his career.
The Auer String Quartet, heard here on Volume 2 of a project to record Lajtha's complete quartets, performs the Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth quartets. As in the first volume, the ensemble again struggles with many of the intrinsically necessary components of Lajtha's writing. Most notably, rhythm is often intolerably sloppy; this second volume includes quartets written much later in Lajtha's career and are accordingly even more complex and intricate than the earlier quartets heard in volume one. Articulations often do not line up and attacks are lackluster and insufficiently energetic. The biggest overall problem, however, remains the quartet's poor intonation, particularly between the two violins. The result is another installment of brilliantly composed music poorly performed, leaving listeners hoping that another ensemble will pick up these scores and provide a more enjoyable product.