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Leningrad Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan

Sue Baker's view...

Brian Moynahan portrays a beleaguered city that during WWII was not only by the attacking Germans but its own government and leader, Stalin who hated Leningrad for its liberality and Romanov connections. That the city survived is a testament to the bravery of the people left to defend it, ever fearful of being rounded up by the dreaded secret police. Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony was first played in 1943 with musicians worried they may be too weak to finish playing due to starvation. As we read in this moving history, the symphony became a ray of light to the people of Leningrad.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo 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.
~ The Good Book Guide

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Leningrad Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan

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.


'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

About the Author

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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Book Info

Publication date

2nd October 2014


Brian Moynahan

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Quercus Publishing


560 pages


Biography / Autobiography
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Second World War
War & defence operations



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