Friday, December 04, 2009

Tanks With Loudspeakers Blaring Music

Dmitri Shostakovich "Symphony No. 7: 'Leningrad'" (Ladislav Slovak (con.) Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava))

I got a yen to listen to this, after coming across some references to Shosty in The Rest Is Noise. The back story behind the music is fascinating. Shostakovich had been in Leningrad when the Germans were approaching that unfortunate city, but was evacuated so that his work could not be stopped. In exile, he composed this symphony as a stirring hymn to the brave people of his home town. The score was flown back to the city, and enough musicians who had not starved to death located to play at its premiere. Despite heavy German bombardment, the concert was completed. Loudspeakers along the frontline brought the stirring melodies to the city's defenders – and to the besiegers. As the Hitlerites listened to Shostakovich's music, they realised they were doomed.

I understand that some see this work as an example of the kind of kitsch Shostakovich could churn out when the Soviet authorities demanded it. Such people are objectively wrong. This is one of the great musical works of the 20th century.

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