, March 2001
"The neglect of Lásloó Lajtha's music has robbed music lovers of the opportunity to enjoy not only Hungary's greatest symphonist, but also a truly original voice in 20th century music--a talent fully comparable to Bartok and Kodály. The reasons for his neglect internationally stem from his political situation in Hungary, where he was deprived of his passport and thus performance opportunities abroad, while at home his music was practically banned as a result of his opposition to the communist regime following the 1956 revolution. By the time he was granted permission to travel again, in 1961, he had only two years to live. Despite the solid backing of his Parisian publisher, Leduc (study scores of all of Lajtha's major orchestral works are available), his music sank into oblivion, with only a couple of recordings on Hungaroton attesting to the value of his work.
"Lajtha composed nine symphonies, and this disc concludes Marco Polo's traversal of the entire series, in addition to other orchestral works as well. Anyone who enjoys, say, Martinu or late Debussy, will love these fantastically orchestrated, melodious, deeply emotional scores. Their sound world is unique: complex accompaniment patterns in the strings, saxophones, at least eight percussionists, harps, and celesta create unforgettable musical landscapes. The Eighth Symphony begins with an airy scherzo (gossamer string textures and whispering percussion), and moves on to a sad slow movement, an agitated march, and concludes in despair--"violent and tormented" according to the composer. Composed in the wake of the events of 1956, like the Seventh Symphony, this is a work of grief and passionate defiance. The Ninth Symphony, in three movements, also has its moments of anger, but moves beyond them to conclude with modal music of distinctly Gregorian chant-like character. Anyone familiar with Miklos Rozsa will find themselves in familiar territory here.
"[The Pécs Symphony Orchestra is] ...clearly committed to the cause, and [Nicolas Pasquet] is completely at home with this Francophile composer's personal idiom, collectively bless these recordings. If you love the symphony as a form, and enjoy reveling in the endlessly colorful possibilities of the modern orchestra, you'll want every single issue in this remarkable edition."