Nicolás Pasquet / Pécs Symphony Orchestra

László Lajtha: Symphony No. 7; Suite No. 3; Hortobágy

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Hungarian composer László Lajtha was highly esteemed by Bartók, and his music was often played in the West. It was often played in Hungary, too, until Lajtha was deemed insufficiently supportive of the Communist cause after World War II. Things worsened substantially for Lajtha when he supported the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union in 1956, but the French continued to admire his essentially tonal and very Hungarian music. It's not clear to what extent the Symphony No. 7, here subtitled the "Revolution Symphony," reflected the events of 1956; Lajtha himself said that it reflected ideas about the Hungarian experience that had been percolating in his mind for some years, and the subtitle seems to have been attached after the fact. One guess would be that the extremely concentrated, agonized first movement was the one written mostly after the Hungarian defeat. It's the best thing on the whole program, and the symphony as a whole comes close to being a Hungarian counterpart to Shostakovich. The other two works are not quite on this level, but both are listenable; the neoclassic Suite No. 3, Op. 56, was not taken from a ballet, but might as well have been, and its exuberant finale is a pleasure. The excerpts from the film score Hortobágy may also remind of Shostakovich's work in this genre. Although Lajtha was an energetic collector of folk music, relatively little of it shows up in the music. The Pécs Symphony Orchestra under Nicolás Pasquet gives clean performances that capture the music's French-Hungarian élan, and at times its pain. Recommended.

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