László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 5 – A Revolutionary Symphony

Volume four of László Lajtha’s orchestral series features but one symphony — his seventh. In some way’s the 1957 “Revolution Symphony” is one of Lajtha’s most honest works (not that he was one to dissemble). Lajtha wrote it in reaction to the Soviet suppression of Hungary’s revolution the year before.

It’s a dissonant, turbulent work that includes some big, heroic gestures. They reminded me somewhat of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony. Unlike that work, though, Lajtha’s symphony seems designed to provoke rather than appease. “La Marseilles” is obliquely referenced. The piece ends with an altered form of the Hungarian National Hymn, a mordant commentary on the New Order.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra seem to understand what Lajtha was trying to express. Their performance conveys a sense of urgency, as they breathlessly relate the birth and death of a revolution. And yet they also perform the quieter passages with restraint and sensitivity.

The emotional intensity of the Revolution Symphony is lightened by the other works on the release. Lajtha’s Suite No. 3 reminded me a little of Vaughan William’s “The Wasps” Overture, mixed with a dash of Prokofiev’s “Love of Three Oranges.” Lajtha composed the work for the 100th anniversary of the Hungarian Philharmonic, and each section gets a turn in the spotlight. It’s a beautifully orchestrated, light-hearted work that should be performed more often.

Lajtha extracted an orchestral suite from his score to “Life on the Hortobágy.” This 1937 film depicts the destruction of the Hortobágy Plainsmen’s traditional life by the arrival of mechanization. The suite effectively depicts that conflict by mixing traditional Hungarian folk elements with daring modern dissonances.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 5
Suite No. 3, Op. 56; Hortobágy Suite, Op. 21; Symphony No. 7, Op. 63 “Revolution Symphony”
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor
Naxos 8.573647

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