Leningrad: Siege and Symphony
Siege and Symphony is an unusual war history. It is a densely packed and meticulously researched account of Germany’s 900-day siege of Leningrad, but is also a vivid, detailed story of that great city’s musicians and artists during the blockade.
Moynahan’s account of the period is roughly chronological but shifts erratically from battle reports to stories of individual musicians, artists, public and private citizens. He does a good job of describing the twin terrors of German war making and NKVD witch hunting – carried out even as Russia’s cities were burning. An image of immense chaos and loss emerges through which Dmitri Shostakovich’s life and music is the recurring theme.
Shostakovich was one of the bright stars that continued to give Leningrad music in this dark time. He began composing the 7th Symphony, The Leningrad, in Leningrad but did not complete it until December 1941 in Kuibyshev, where he had been evacuated. It was first performed in Leningrad on August 9, 1942, and became a sustaining, triumphant testament to the will of the Russian people. One need only hear this amazing composition to feel its impact.
An excellent performance by the Orchestra of Barcelona is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbru9UcCLQQ. Most highly recommended!