Ondrej Lenard: Alexander Moyzes Down The River Váh, Slovak Radio Symphony

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Alexander Moyzes, Down The River Váh (1935)
Conducted by Ondrej Lenard with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.

I. At The Sources - 00:00
II. From Liptov to Orava - 4:15
III. Around Strecno - 8:20
IV. Romance - 12:02
V. Into The Danube's Embrace - 17:57

Alexander Moyzes was the son of Mikulaš Moyzes, an important figure in the development of Slovak national music in the years leading up to 1918 and the establishment of Czechoslovakia. He was born in 1906 in north-west Slovakia and learned at first with his father before entering in 1925 the Prague Conservatory, where he studied organ, conducting and composition. He graduated in 1929, the occasion of his First Symphony, and went on to study in the master class of Vitezslav Novák, from which he graduated in the following year with his Overture for Orchestra, Opus 10. It was Novak too who directed his concentration on Slovak music, the source of his inspiration.

In 1929 Moyzes was appointed to the teaching staff of the Academy of Music 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 adviser to Radio Bratislava, until compelled to take leave in 1948. He became professor of composition at the Bratislava College of Musical Arts on its foundation and headed the College from 1965 to 1971.

With Eugen Suchon and Ján 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. As a teacher he proved influential and his pupils include almost all the leading composers of the middle generation in Slovak music.

The suite Down the River Váh draws overt inspiration from the scenery of Slovakia, for which Moyzes had a particular affection, and was started in 1935 for the Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra. He returned to the work after the war, developing it into its present form. The suite opens with sources of the river, surrounded by the peaks of the Tatra mountains, from which it flows. The water tumbles down over the rocks, meeting as a river in the valley, and flowing on in a majestic hymn to the Morava and the Danube. The second movement finds the river passing through flowery meadows, where a shepherd plays his pipe, the sound echoing into the dusk as the sun sets. The river grows wilder and there is thunder and lightning, while river raftsmen negotiate the rapidly swirling waters through the gate of Slovakia, guarded by the old castle of Strecno. In Romance Moyzes recalls olden times, trumpeters calling noble guests to feasting in the castle, while the peasants suffered, protected only by outlaws who robbed the rich to help the poor. The suite ends as the Váh grows in size, rushing on to meet the Danube in the summer sunshine, with snatches of folk song and dance to be heard through its surging waters.