Powerful performances of Alexander Moyzes Symphonies 9 & 10

This is the penultimate installment of Naxos’ Moyzes Symphony Series. Slovak composer Alexander Moyzes completed 12 symphonies. Symphonies 9 and 10 date from the 1970s.

Symphony No. 9 was premiered in 1971 and is the work of a mature composer. Moyzes wrote in a neo-romantic style. This symphony blends in some extreme dissonance, creating a work that seemed somewhat on edge. The three movements each neatly break down into three sections. But there’s nothing formalistic about this work.

Critics have compared Moyzes’ Ninth Symphony to contemporary works of Shostakovich. It’s a good analogy. Both composers were trying to express emotional outrage that tonality could barely contain. In Moyzes’ case, it was the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia by the USSR.

It’s a powerful work, and the performance of the Slovák and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra ensure the emotions hit home.

Moyzes completed his tenth symphony at the end of the decade. Premiered in 1979, Symphony No. 10 seems to have no political subtext. It’s just about the music. And what music! Moyzes’ harmonies push the boundaries of tonality in imaginative and appealing ways. The slow movements are exceptionally beautiful, with alluring melodies that hint of exoticism.

Moyzes, like Dvorak, wrote music that can be successfully performed by any orchestra in the world. And yet, when their music is performed by Czech ensembles an additional dimension seems to open up.

That’s the case with both these symphonies. Ladislav Slovák and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra don’t just know all the notes. They know what Moyzes meant by those notes — and that informs their performances.

These recordings were first released on Marco Polo. I’m glad they’re coming out again on Naxos. These works deserve a wider audience.

Alexander Moyzes: Symphonies Nos. 9 and 10
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Ladislav Slovák, conductor
Naxos 8.573654

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