Alexander Moyzes Symphonies 3 & 4 – Subtle Subversiveness

This release is the second reissue of Moyzes recordings from Naxos. The cycle was originally released on Marco Polo in 2000. The recordings still sound superb. The ensemble sound of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra has a warm, smooth sound. And yet one can still hear important details in the solo passages and smaller groupings. And that’s important with Moyzes, who had a fondness for counterpoint.

Moyzes’ Symphony No. 3 in B flat major is titled “The Little Symphony.” It must be the work’s origins — at 23 minutes it seems plenty big to me. Moyzes used an early wind quintet as the foundation for the symphony. The five movements are short and concise. This 1942 work has some of the mordant wit of Prokofiev, especially in the scherzo.

The liner notes state that the 1947 Symphony No. 4 in E major was “combines protest at the injustice of war with the past history of the Slovaks.” Well, perhaps. The work’s motifs were written first for a radio play about Herod and Heroditus. Some also came from a radio play about Slovak nationalist Ludovít Štúr.

Whether that translates into a subversive protest or not, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the symphony. This is a dynamic work, almost restless in its motion and energy. Moyzes skillfully weaves the three movements together through thematic transformation. But this isn’t “Finlandia.” Moyzes’ tonal symphony works quite well as an apolitical piece of abstract music.

Alexander Moyzes: Symphonies 3 and 4
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Ladislav Slovák, conductor
Naxos 8.57365

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