Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 1 (1929) 41.11
Symphony No. 2 (1932/41) 36.47
Slovak RSO/Ladislav Slovak
MARCO POLO 8.225088 [78.05]

Although we know quite a few names from the Czech Republic, Slovakian composers have enjoyed less of the limelight. From the first half of the twentieth century Moyzes, Eugen Suchon and Jan Cikker were the foremost composers of their generation in Slovakia. Each have had a few works recorded but their music's progress has been glacial.

The Moyzes First Symphony betrays a Mahlerian sympathy mixed in with the voices of Richard Strauss, Franz Schmidt and early Szymanowski. Density and richness of texture are not one and the same and in the first movement Moyzes leans towards density and coagulation rather than anything else. His thematic invention at these moments does not compensate sufficiently although he comes close at 11.28 where he launches a romantic melody ranking with Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The deeply felt adagio is better - taking life from Suk's Wenceslas Meditation and Debussy's La Mer. The wind-dominated scherzo skips sturdily along and leads into a finale which is successful when it is light and blissfully wraith-like (a latter-day Berlioz) but which becomes ponderous and congested whenever Moyzes reaches for heroism and the drums.

The work was premiered by its dedicatee Oskar Nedbal in Bratislava in 1929.

The Second Symphony was premiered in Bratislava in 1942. This is more jagged; more rugged (Prokofiev's 'parade-ground' style as in Symphony No. 4 and Love of Three Oranges) - as much touched with cataclysm as the Kurt Weill symphonies (recently re-heard by me in Gary Bertini's impressive performances on EMI Matrix). It still finds time for a lengthy dream-like interlude reminiscent of the nostalgic homecoming theme from Hugo Friedhofer's music for 'The Best Years of Our Lives'. Moyzes also finds time for some Straussian solo violin passages. The first of the two movements plays for sixteen minutes while the second runs to twenty. At 2.12 a Prokofiev-like piquancy (Classical Symphony and the music-box episodes from Romeo and Juliet) enters the fray. Moyzes is at his best in delicacy and at his most prone to self-indulgence in the extremes of emotion. A ruminative meandering overhangs most of the end of the movement which plays out hypnotically.

Sad to note that the conductor died last year. We can hope that Marco Polo, who recorded these two symphonies in 1993 and 1994, have recorded some, or better yet, all of the other ten Moyzes symphonies and will gradually release them.

There are decent notes and recording quality though there are some strange moments of odd perspective. Also the recording is overly warm.

For confirmed explorers of obscurity. There is some rewarding music here once you allow for the several overblown episodes. The First Symphony is a priority and the first movement of the Second is decidedly worth your precious listening time.


Rob Barnett

Note - there is also a Marco Polo CD of Moyzes' Gemer Dances, Down the River Vah and Pohronie Dances that are likely to be worth exploring.


Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

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