Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was first played in the city of its birth on August 9, 1942. There has never been a first performance to match it. Pray God, there never will be again. Almost a year earlier, the Germans had begun their blockade of the city. Already many thousands had died of their wounds, the cold, and most of all, starvation. The assembled musicians - scrounged from frontline units and military bands, for only 20 of the orchestra's 100 players had survived - were so hungry, many feared they’d be too weak to play the score right through. In these, the darkest days of the Second World War, the music and the defiance it inspired provided a rare beacon of light for the watching world.
In Leningrad: Siege and Symphony, Brian Moynahan sets the composition of Shostakovich's most famous work against the tragic canvas of the siege itself and the years of repression and terror that preceded it. In vivid and compelling detail he tells the story of the cruelties heaped by the twin monsters of the 20th century on a city of exquisite beauty and fine minds, and of its no less remarkable survival. Weaving Shostakovic’s own story and that of many others into the context of the maelstrom of Stalin's purges and the brutal Nazi invasion of Russia, Leningrad: Siege and Symphony is a magisterial and moving account of one of the most tragic periods in history.
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Important take on history and music
Absolutely not! Too many Russian names and historical details. Seriously flawed narration.
No.. I usually complain about poor pronunciation of foreign words and names in audiobooks. This one had the reverse problem. The narrator seemed so eager to show off his flawless Russian that the performance was annoyingly affected and pretentious. He also read every sentence as if it were the most important one in the book with exaggerated drama. Editing was also poor, with no breaks between sections of text./ Read the book instead.
This book is not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of the siege of Leningrad are horrific, and the book requires a knowledge of World War II history and an interest in classical music. That being said, it's definitely worth the effort--to read.
- E. Kahn
Excellent perspective on the history of the siege.