REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » LAJTHA: Symphony No. 1 / Suite pour Orchestre / In Memoriam
orchestre, Op. 19
In memoriam, Op.
Symphony No.1, Op.
Liszlo Lajtha, one
of the greatest Hungarian composers of the first half of the twentieth century,
was born in Budapest on 30th June 1892. He took his composer's diploma as a pupil of Viktor
Herzfeld at the Budapest Academy of Music and continued his studies in Leipzig and in Geneva, until1914 spending six months of each
year in Paris. There Lajtha was a pupil of Vincent d'Indy,
who introduced him to the musical world of Paris, and the periods he spent
there brought friendship with a number of people who exercised a decisive
influence on his musical language. He began to collect folk-music in the second
decade of the century, then spending the four years of the war at the front as
an artillery officer. In 1919 he was appointed to the teaching staff of the
Budapest National Conservatory. From 1928 Lajtha was a member of the
International Commission of Popular Arts and Traditions of the League of Nations and later a member of the Commission of Arts and
Letters until the outbreak of the second World War. He was also a member of the
committee of the International Folk Music Council, based in London. It was in 1930 that he signed his first contract
with the Paris publisher Leduc, his exclusive publisher
from 1948. His international career as a composer began in 1929 with the award
of the Coolidge Prize for his Third String Quartet.
After the Second
World War Laszlo Lajtha became director of music for Hungarian Radio, director
of the Museum of Ethnography and of the National Conservatory. In 1947, commissioned to provide
film music, he spent a year in London, but on his return lost all his official
positions, for political reasons. In 1951, he received the Kossuth Prize for
his activities in the Held of folk-music. He was the only composer since Liszt
to be elected a corresponding member of the French Academie des Beaux-Arts.
Lajtha died in Budapest on 16th February 1963.
Although it is not
so indicated by the title, the composer compiled his Suite pour orchestre,
Opus 19, from the ballet Lysistrata. Lajtha wrote for works for the
stage, three sparkling ballets and a brilliant comic opera. The first of these
was the one-act ballet Lysistrata, composed in 1933, the only such work
of Lajtha's to be staged in his life-time. The ballets Le bosquet des quatre
Dieux (The Grove of Four Gods) of 1943 and the Capriccio - Puppet Show of
1944 are only known from the suites derived from their music, while the opera
Le chapeau bleu (The Blue Hat), with a libretto by Salvador de
Madariaga, had its first performance on Hungarian Radio as late as 1990 and has
still not been staged.
The libretto of Lysistrata
was based by Lajtha and the Hungarian poet Lajos Aprily on the Lysistrata
of Aristophanes. The women on both sides are tired of the war between Athens and Sparta. They want peace, but the elders who
control matters keep the hostilities going. At the instigation of Lysistrata,
the women offer a sacrifice to Aphrodite and seek her help. She also persuades
the women to refuse their husbands their conjugal rights, as long as the
combattants refuse to make peace. The army of women defend their citadel
against the elders, who want to set it on fire. The warriors of Athens and Sparta make common cause and, joining forces with
the women, defeat the old men. After this everyone goes home happily together
and Lysistrata, still single, thanks Aphrodite.
Shortly after the
first performance an interview with Lajtha was carried by the periodical Delibab:
Reading the Lysistrata of Aristophanes in Janos Arany's translation,
I was captured by the theme being so danceable: everything can be expressed by
movement, every confession of love or feeling. In Lysistrata the
protagonist is the crowd, with the soloists merely episodic. The main events
are the conspiracy of the women, the fratricidal strife, with individuals only
providing additional colouring.
The ballet was
produced at the Hungarian Opera House on 25th February 1937, when the conductor was Janos Ferencsik, the stage
director Gusztav Olah, the choreographer Rezsö Brada and the stage designer
Zoltan Fülöp. The famous mezzo-soprano Piroska Tutsek was cast in the title
role, because Lysistrata does not have to dance. The piece had a run of four
nights, but since 1937 it has never been staged again.
The ballet score
consists of a series of closed numbers. This must also have facilitated the
composition of a suite. The latter has four movements, Prelude et Hymne, Marche
Burlesque, Valse Lente and Can-Can and was first performed in
November 1936 in the Vigad6 (Redout), six months before the staging of the
ballet. As Lajtha's most detailed biographer, Janos Breuer, notes, the suite
was the only orchestral composition by Lajtha to be played in concert in Budapest unti11945. This fact shows the neglect that Lajtha
suffered all through his life, while his music was better known abroad, in Western Europe. To Breuer's knowledge the suite was performed in Rome and in Brussels in the 1936-37 season, and also, in the
composer's life-time, in Paris, London and Melbourne.
Lajtha wrote his In
memoriam in 1941, describing it, in a sub-title, as Piece symphonique
pour orchestre. His intention was to give a measure of eternity to the
victims of the second World War and the incompleteness of the title may suggest
the anonymity of the dead as well as the incomplete nature of the list of the
fallen, with millions still to be killed in the most terrible of all wars. As a
young man, the composer had served as an artillery officer and had first
experience of these horrors. The shocking single-movement dramatic composition
lasts about twenty minutes and is an eloquent protest against war and against
the helplessness and senselessness of human suffering. The basic dynamics of
the work range from piano and pianissimo to fortissimo, as the cries of pain
burst forth, always followed by the silence of shock. Having already written
music for the cinema, Lajtha almost projects before the listener's inner eye
the procession of victims and the agony of those left mourning.
In memoriam was dedicated to the BBC and was conducted
in London by Sir Adrian Boult. In May 1945, when
concerts could be held once more, this work was the first premiere to be given
in Budapest, where it was played again on 2nd
April1963, six weeks after Lajtha's death, together with the ballet suite Capriccio,
conducted by one of the composer's most talented pupils, Janos Ferencsik.
symphonies and several other symphonic works, Lajtha is the first major
symphonist in Hungarian music. While his contemporaries Bart6k and Kodaly made
little use of the genre, Lajtha found it the most meaningful, together with the
string quartet. This affinity with the symphony, inherited from classicism, was
also relatively rare among contemporary composers abroad. Written when Lajtha
was 44, the Symphony, unnumbered at this time, has three movements, like
several of his later symphonies. These are fast (Allegro), slow (Andante) and
fast (Allegro molto), are turn to the traditional three-movement form of the
Italian opera overture or sinfonia, a forerunner of the classical symphony
symphonies can be divided into two groups. Chronologically close but sharply
different in contents arethe vigorous and optimistic First Symphony of
1936 and the dramatic and ominous Second Symphony of 1938, the latter
suggesting the dread that came over the composer at the signs of coming war.
After a break of ten years, he continued the series, with a new symphony every
two or three years, until 1961.
Symphony No.1 has been particularly neglected and the
composer's affinity with the Latin or French spirit, mastery of Western musical
idiom and reliance on Hungarian folk-music is here apparent. He had had earlier
experience of writing for a large orchestra, with film music, ballet and
orchestral suites before 1936. In the symphony his exceptional gift for
instrumentation, the richness of his melodic invention and his humour are all
Symphony is dedicated to the famous Austrian film director Georg
Hoellering, in memory of their collaboration in Hortobligy, a film of
the Hungarian puszta. The first performance of the symphony was in the Netherlands and in Hungary it was performed by the Radio Orchestra
under the direction of Janos Ferencsik. This studio concert was broadcast also
in London, Paris and Prague.
Emöke Solymosi Tari
Last Albums Viewed
LAJTHA: Symphony No. 1 / Suite pour Orchestre / In...