People who know me, know I am a big Heavy Metal fan ,and one of my favourite tracks is called Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth.But this blog is about a different Symphony, a Symphony which was composed and first performed amidst great destruction.
The piece of music is commonly known as the Leningrad Symphony, It was Dmitri Shostakovich 7th Symphony.
The disturbing news of the German attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, had reached Leningrad at midday June 22 as Molotov announced the attack via loudspeakers throughout the city.
The 35-year-old composer Shostakovich was head of the Leningrad Conservatoire’s piano department. He began work on his Seventh Symphony in the first hot days of July.
He had volunteered for the army but was dismissed because of his poor eyesight.
Instead he became a volunteer for the Leningrad Conservatory’s firefighter brigade. However as a musician he set his talents to work and help the war effort in a different way. I did not research this but as a musician myself I know how powerful music can be, it cam alter moods, lift spirits and boost morale.
When Shostakovich played the first two tacts of his Seventh Symphony to some of his friends, in the besieged city of Leningrad in the summer of 1941, the performance was brutally interrupted by a German bombardment.
Shostakovich endured and worked with an inhuman intensity to finish what would become his best known work. Not because he wanted to become rich from it but because he knew how important art was and especially music in the most dire circumstances.
The first full performance in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was given in August 1942 by a half-starved orchestra, whose emaciated state is symbolised by the drummer Dzaudhat Aydarov, who had literally been rescued from the dead.
Karl Eliasberg, the conductor on that occasion, stated that Soviet artillery pounded known German battery positions prior to the start of concert in order to silence them.
It was the same Eliasberg who went to the morgue looking for the drummer Aydarov,He found his presumed cadaver still moving and breathing.
Despite the destruction around them and being under siege by the German army, the people of Leningrad still found a bit of comfort by buying a ticket for the mammoth work which lasted for over 78 minutes. 78 minutes where they could forget the war, the hunger and the despair.
Below is the music the symphony in its full length.
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