Rob Barnett reviewed the first five releases in this complete series of
the Moyzes symphonies in 2000-02 (see below). Somehow, this final recording
was missed out, an omission that I discovered when this appeared as a daily
discount on a download site recently. Since this is such interesting music
from a little known figure of the twentieth century, I felt it was
worthwhile completing the set, some two decades after the recordings were
Some biographical details first. Moyzes was born in northern Slovakia, and
studied composition at the Prague Conservatorium with Vítězslav Novák. He
occupied a number of important positions in the musical establishment in
Bratislava across a career of more than forty years. He is described in the
booklet as being one of the leading composers of his generation in Slovakia,
though it must be said that the other names mentioned are as or even more
obscure than his.
This is not the music one expects from the late 1970s and early 1980s. It
is neither harshly atonal nor lushly post-Romantic. It is, instead, quite
delicate - Rob Barnett called some of the earlier works "diaphanous" - and
even the louder percussion-driven sections are not thunderous or menacing.
Shostakovich unquestionably comes to mind; they are approximate
contemporaries and undoubtedly Moyzes would have had similar problems with
the authorities. However, this is Shostakovich without the harrowing irony.
There is a much gentler cast to the music, which takes it closer to the
English symphonists: I'm thinking of post-WW2 Vaughan Williams and
The Eleventh is a flawed, but impressive work, wide-ranging in moods, but
always with restraint. By way of example, the work begins with an ominous
crescendo on timpani. If this was Shostakovich, the crescendo would last
much longer, and be much more overpowering - think of the massive climaxes
in Symphonies 7 and 11 - but Moyzes pulls up short: on reaching
, it ceases, changing into a melodic figure for the orchestra.
As I listen to this work, the word "wistful" keeps popping into my mind. Rob
Barnett has commented about less than successful final movements in some of
the other symphonies. The same applies here, and indeed to the slow third
movement as well, but not so much lack of interesting material, but for
overstretching it. The symphony is bottom-heavy: the final two movements
account for almost two-thirds of its running time. If the succinctness of
the opening movements had been carried throughout, this would be a cracking
The Twelfth is Moyzes' final symphony, and indeed, his penultimate
composition. It is a step down in quality from its predecessor. Much of the
first and last (of three) movements are martial in nature, with incessant
percussion, which doesn't really mask the lack of invention. The slow music
in the first and middle movements is much better.
The booklet notes are reasonably informative, and the sound is as good as
it got for Eastern European recordings for Marco Polo back in the 1990s.
These two symphonies are my first exposure to his music, which some might
see as approaching it from the wrong direction. I have certainly enjoyed
what I've heard, and while they certainly don't displace the great twentieth
century symphonies, nor do they deserve such neglect.
Reviews of other Moyzes symphonies on Marco Polo
Symphonies 1 & 2
Symphonies 3 & 4
Symphonies 5 & 6
Symphonies 7 & 8
Symphonies 9 & 10