The bust of László Lajtha unveiled

The bust of one of the most significant Hungarian composers of the 20th century, László Lajtha was unveiled in the 5th district of Budapest on 30 June. At the ceremony among others Minister of State for Culture Péter Hoppál, composer and member of MMA's presidium László Dubrovay, art historian and member of MMA Emőke Solymosi Tari, the 92 years old son of László Lajtha a neuroscientist living in the USA Ábel Lajtha were present. After the ceremony a special concert was given in Petőfi Literary Museum (PIM). The making and erection of the bust was - among other institutions - supported by MMA.
László Lajtha (30 June 1892 – 16 February 1963) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist and conductor. He studied with Viktor Herzfeld in the Academy of Music in Budapest and then in Leipzig, Geneva and finally in Paris where he was a pupil of Vincent d'Indy. Before the First World War in collaboration with Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály he undertook the study and transcription of Hungarian folk songs, heading up a project to produce a series of folk music recordings. In the war he served at the front as an artillery officer, an experience recalled in his sombre Second Symphony (1938) – a work that remained unperformed until 1988. In 1919 he married Róza Hollós and began teaching in the Budapest National Conservatory. Among his pupils was the conductor of international fame János Ferencsik. From 1928 he was a member of the International Commission of Popular Arts and Traditions of the League of Nations. He was also a member of the International Folk Music Council based in London.
After the Second World War he was appointed Director of Music for the Hungarian Radio, director of the Museum of Ethnography and of the Budapest National Conservatory. His symphonic piece In Memoriam was the first to be premiered in Budapest when concert life started again after the war. In 1947-48 he spent a year in London, having been asked by the film director Georg Hoellering to compose music for his film of T. S. Eliot's verse drama Murder in the Cathedral. Rather than providing a dedicated film score, Lajtha wrote three important concert works – his Third Symphony, Orchestral Variations and Harp Quintet No.2 - extracts from which were used in the film. On his return to Hungary his passport was confiscated for having stayed too long in the West and he was removed from all the aforementioned positions. In 1951 he was bestowed the Kossuth State Award for his activities in folk-music research.
His international recognition as a composer began in 1929 with his String Quartet No.3, which was awarded the Coolidge Prize. From his time in Paris before the First World War Lajtha had many friends among French artists, such as the novelist Romain Rolland and the composer Henri Barraud. He was the only Hungarian composer since Franz Liszt to be elected a corresponding member of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts.
His works display an intriguing synthesis of French and Hungarian national elements with musical neo-classicism. His later works are more radical in their construction and employ some extreme dissonance, for example the Seventh Symphony, Autumn (1957), conceived as a lament for the 1956 uprising. However, his music is only moderately reputed in Hungary and abroad, as a result of its suppression under the Communist regime due to his support for the 1956 uprising. In addition a ban on Lajtha travelling abroad deprived him of performance opportunities, and it is only in recent years that his reputation has begun to be established as one of Hungary's most important composers.
July 3, 2015