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8.225091 - MOYZES: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8
English 

Alexander Moyzes (1906-1984)
Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8

Alexander Moyzes, one of the most significant figures in modern Slovak music, was born into a musical family in 1906 in Northern Slovakia. After earlier technical studies, in 1925 he entered the Prague Conservatory, where he studied organ, conducting and composition. He graduated in 1929 and went on to study in the master class of Vítezslav Novák, from which he graduated in the following year with his Overture for Orchestra, Opus 10. It was Novák who directed his attention to Slovak music, the source of his inspiration.

In 1929 Moyzes was appointed to the teaching staff of the Music Academy in Bratislava, the Slovak capital. He was appointed professor of composition at the Bratislava Conservatory in 1941 and spent a number of years as principal music advisor to Radio Bratislava, until compelled to resign in 1948. On its foundation he became professor of composition at the Bratislava Music Academy, where he taught no less than three generations of Slovak composers. He headed the Academy as Rector from 1965 until 1971, and over the years undertook many important functions in the musical life of his country.

With Eugen Suchon and Jan Cikker, Alexander Moyzes must be considered one of the three leading composers of his generation in Slovakia. He succeeded in creating a style of composition that was thoroughly Slovak in inspiration, yet nevertheless took account of contemporary trends in European music, a synthesis that he was to consolidate in his later years.

Symphony No. 7, Op. 50 is the largest and most impressive orchestral work of Moyzes. It was composed in the years 1954-55 and the first performance was on 23rd October 1955 in Bratislava with the Slovák Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ladislav Slovak. The symphony is dedicated to the memory of the composer's daughter Martha, who died tragically young. The work expresses deep sorrow at her unexpected death and suggests remembrance of a person who was very close to the composer. The first movement, Pastorale, depicts an idyllic Slovakian peasant scene, with a pensive folk-melody heard, as it were, from a shepherd's pipe. The bucolic spirit of the Pastorale is soon interrupted by the second movement Scherzo, a folk-dance in a typical national idiom. The spontaneous rhythmical background is broken by a sorrowful theme anticipated by an ostinato figure suggesting the coming tragedy. The Pastorale and Scherzo, suggesting a meditation and dance (Urpaar) is typical of the Central European folk-music tradition that brings together slow and fast elements. The third movement, marked Largo, is considered the intellectual centre of the symphony. It opens with an expansive, meditative melody of unusual beauty, which, as it develops, becomes uneasy and more and more dramatic. The musical tension is further accentuated by a dotted timpani rhythm, portending the corning tragedy. After a long crescendo comes a break, with the solo bass clarinet in despair, followed by a sorrowful violin solo. Man remains alone in the face of the cruelty of Fate. The fourth movement, Finale, brings together all the strength and optimism of the composer, to survive the tragedy. The opening theme is rhythmically spontaneous and has an indisputably folk-dance character. There are reminiscences of the Pastorale and Largo, a few painful reminiscences of the earlier mood of mourning, but the overall result is one of undoubted final rejoicing. With his Seventh Symphony Moyzes created a work that ignored the then current official lirnitations of so-called socialist realism that forced artists to avoid the expression of personal pain or happiness.

Fourteen years after completion of his Symphony No. 7 Alexander Moyzes started to work on the next Symphony No. 8. Op. 64. The immediate impulse to compose this work was the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russia on 21st August. 1968. This tragic event in the recent history of Czechoslovakia inspired many local artists, especially in drama, literature, film and music. Moyzes was deeply affected by this act of state terrorism against a small and defenceless country, after twenty years of oppression. He decided to protest against the military violence through music and called the symphony, which he completed in February 1969, 21.08.1968. Owing to this spectacular choice of title the work was banned during the whole period of political 'normalisation' (1969-1989); it could not be performed publicly and, surprisingly, there has been no public performance up to today. The symphony, scored for an extremely large orchestra has no overt programme, but its character is one of depression and sadness. The atmosphere of the first movement, marked Tranquillo, is strained and ominous, like the foreboding of a catastrophe. Timid and strange passages of harp and celesta are accompanied by malicious trumpet military signals expanded to a marching theme and transferred at the end into a Marcia funebre. The second movement, marked Allegro molto, is a gloomy scherzo, similar to the famous Scherzo from the Tenth Symphony of Shostakovich. The middle section has the character of a lament, with the repeat composed as a fugato. The third movement, with the directions Lento - Allegro ma non troppo, is the largest and most relevant section of the work. A short introduction replaces the symphony's slow movement and moves on, without a break, into lively music, impelled forward by a motor impetus. It is interrupted by a brief pesante section but reverts at the end to a grandiose finale.

Ivan Marton


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