25 Mar 2014

Curtain Raiser: Shostakovich - Symphony No 7, Leningrad

From the collecton Curtain Raiser
Mravinsky conducts Shostakovich's 7th Symphony in 1980

Mravinsky conducts Shostakovich's 7th Symphony in 1980 Photo: Ressov, CC BY-SA 3.0


Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was famously given its Leningrad première in August 1942.

The starving, yet defiant, players assembled under the banner of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra, during the nearly-900 day Siege of Leningrad.

“We are struggling for the highest human ideals in history. We are battling for our culture, for science, for art, for everything we have created and built… I dedicate my Seventh Symphony to our struggle with fascism, to our coming victory over the enemy, and to my native city, Leningrad…”

Dmitri Shostakovich’s inspiring words give no acknowledgement to the conditions he endured to write his symphony. Leningrad was encircled by the German army in what would become the deadliest siege in history.

Despite Shostakovich’s travails, the Leningrad Symphony was a propaganda coup for the Allies. The composer was pictured on the cover of Time magazine as his symphony swept through Russia, Britain and America.

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