Leningrad Siege and Symphony

by Brian Moynahan

Biography / Autobiography eBooks of the Month History

Leningrad Siege and Symphony Synopsis

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. Setting 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, Leningrad: Siege and Symphony is a magisterial and moving account of one of the most tragic periods in history.

The Good Book Guide Review

Moynahan describes the 900-day siege of Leningrad as a backdrop to the dramatic life of Dimitri Shostakovich. The composer’s early life is waltzed through, and his trying times during Stalin’s purges are detailed, but the book centres on life within a city strangled by Nazi invaders. There’s the terror of the summer of 1941, the great hunger of that winter, and the attempts to break the blockade. Then comes the drama as Shostakovich attempts to rally exhausted musicians and premier his astonishing Seventh Symphony. This was a breath-taking example of the triumph of art over adversity as, finally, the siege was broken.

Leningrad Siege and Symphony Press Reviews

'Tolstoyan ... Moynahan's account is by far the fullest and most compelling I've read ... it's certainly hard to read his gripping, skilfully woven account without emotion'
-Stephen Walsh, Spectator

'A bold attempt to set the composition of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony within the extraordinary context of its times'
-Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

'A really gripping read ... the narrative is fantastic, very skilfully done ... I couldn't put it down. It's like reading a novel'
-Professor Erik Levi, Music Matters BBC Radio 3

'The extraordinary tale of the symphony and the city that inspired it, an engrossing, finely researched new book.'
- Petroc Trelawny, Catholic Herald

'The scale of Leningrad's suffering and the lasting impact of [Shostakovich's] inspirational music are brilliantly captured in this extraordinary book ... Unique, a powerful and redemptive piece of work.'
- Curtis Hutchinson, Military History Monthly

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780857383020
Publication date: 02/10/2014
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780857383020
Publication date: 2nd October 2014
Author: Brian Moynahan
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 560 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, eBook Favourites, History,
Categories: Second World War, War & defence operations,

About Brian Moynahan

Brian Moynahan was an award-winning foreign correspondent and European editor with the Sunday Times. His many books include The Faith: A History of Christianity, The Russian Century, Comrades, The Claws of the Bear, Rasputin. Forgotten Soldiers, his first book for Quercus, was published in 2007.

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