Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was first played in the city of its birth on 9 August, 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 twenty 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.Â
Setting the composition of Shostakovich’sÂ most famous work against the tragic canvas of the siege itself and the years of repression and terror that preceded it, Leningrad: Siege and Symphony is a magisterial and moving account of one of theÂ most tragic periods in history.