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Alexander MOYZES (1906-1984)
Symphony No. 5 (1948) [31:58]
Symphony No. 6 (1951) [29:57]
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ladislav Slovák
rec. 1994/5, Concert Hall, Slovak Radio, Bratislava
NAXOS 8.573652 [61:54]

Moyzes came from a musically sympathetic family and his course to eminence was encouraged and not impeded. Alongside Eugen Suchoň (1908–1993) and Ján Cikker (1911–1989) he vies in friendly rivalry for the position of leading Slovak composer of the period 1900-1960. As I have said in a previous review of the Naxos disc's Marco Polo original predecessor, his music declares itself firmly rooted in tonal-folk soil. His synthesis also takes in the grand Viennese romantic tradition of Schubert and Mahler as well as the central European voices of his teacher, Novák, of Smetana and the 'Hungarian' Brahmsian stream.

Most of the Fifth Symphony finds sustenance in the celebratory and the pictorial rather than being riven with symphonic conflict. The world inhabited is almost jolly rather like Ludolf Nielsen's suites - a brand of provincial chivalry which I equate with Mahler's Symphonies 1, 4 and 7. The composer goes to town with the drums, cymbals and triangle. The long second movement is plangent, inward and dreamily melancholic. The third movement is a comfortable mingling of the balletic and the bucolic rather like sections of Franz Schmidt's Hussarenlied Variations. The finale (Allegro fresco e vivace) grips and is companionably gripped by a quick and light-hearted mood. There are indications that it quotes "a joyful East Slovakian folksong" and this ushers in a blazing and flag-snapping finale. It may be that this work owes something to the Little Mountain Symphony by Alexander's father Mikulas (1872-1944); indeed, the symphony bears a subtitle ‘in accordance with the heritage of my dear father’. It was composed between December 1947 and April 1948. and belongs in the sunny company of symphonies by Bizet and Prokofiev.

The Sixth Symphony is in five movements. Once again, the composer drew on a relaxed and good-hearted spirit. There is nothing of torment or conflict. In its second movement, the flickering and delightful vigour of the symphonies of Kodály and Moeran is front and centre. The Largo (III) is a tender and fawn-like dream. The finale - an Allegretto giusto e vigoroso - keeps the smile-wreathed clock ticking. It's not quite as grand as Prokofiev's Seventh or George Lloyd's Fourth and Sixth but points in much the same shapely direction. Like Moyzes' Fifth, it is most lovingly recorded and it is no surprise that it has been broadcast several times in BBC Radio 3's "Through the Night" programme, most recently in August 2018.

This is the third issue in the Naxos series of all twelve of Moyzes' symphonies. It is helpfully annotated by Ivan Marton, who deals well with the essentials and beyond.

Rob Barnett


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