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Leningrad : siege and symphony
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Soviet history
Symphony music
Social conditions
German occupation of Russia
Military leadership
Soviet politics
Leningrad, Russia - Europe
- Eastern Europe
Time Period
1934-1942 -- 20th century
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  Library Journal Review

The siege of Leningrad by the German Wehrmacht during World War II was perhaps the greatest catastrophe ever to befall a city, with some one million deaths from a population only double that number. Moynahan (Jungle Soldier) here connects the wartime suffering of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg again) to what he likens as the triumph of its people as symbolized by the Seventh Symphony (often referred to as the Leningrad Symphony) of Dmitri Shostakovich, who composed it during the siege. The author vividly recounts the harrowing existence of both soldiers and civilians in and around the besieged city, interweaving their heroic responses to the invasion. Besides fending off the German onslaught, the inhabitants of the city were also hounded by Joseph Stalin's secret police (NKVD), who were on the lookout for scapegoats and perceived enemies. Shostakovich composed this tribute to his city on the Neva River, knowing that if it displeased the authorities he could expect a knock on the door from the NKVD. VERDICT Moynahan's rapturous commentary on the music at times amounts to puffery. Nonetheless an admirable tribute to the human spirit and artistic integrity. Highly recommended for all readers interested in the era and the wellsprings of artistic creation. [See Prepub Alert, 5/3/14.]-Edward Cone, New York (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Veteran international journalist Moynahan (Claws of the Bear) artfully weaves four interrelated stories set in the great Russian metropolis from 1934 to 1942: the start and continuation of Stalin's purges; the siege of the city by German forces during WWII; the dire huger and cold within the city; and the near-miraculous and triumphant Russian premiere of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony ("the Leningrad") in August 1942, with German guns only seven miles away. Moynahan reveals the extent to which Stalin decimated his army's leadership up to and after the June 1941 German invasion and how the purges encompassed a growing number of civilians accused of defeatism. Meanwhile, during the terrible winter of 1942, desperate citizens resorted to cannibalism. Discussing the symphony's performance, Moynahan notes that most of the musicians "were substitutions due to illness and death," and yet, he notes, if the Leningrad premiere of Shostakovich's masterwork was "perhaps the most magnificent... moment ever to be found in music," the music "hid the camps and interrogation chambers." Moynahan occasionally loses steam, but his vivid political, military, and artistic vignettes and the deft way he links them make this an exceptional, memorable work. Maps. Agent: Rachel Mills, Peters Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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 fearedthey'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.<br> <br> In Leningrad: Siege and Symphony , Brian Moynahan sets 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. In vivid and compelling detail he tells the story of the cruelties heaped by the twin monsters of the twentieth century on a city of exquisite beauty and fine minds, and of its no less remarkable survival. Weaving Shostakovich's own story and that of many others into the context of the maelstrom of Stalin's purges and the brutal Nazi invasion of Russia, Leningrad: Siege and Symphony is a magisterial and moving account of one of the most tragic periods in history.
Table of Contents
Dramatis Personaep. ix
Mapsp. xiii
Ouvertyura Overturep. 1
1Repressii Terrorp. 11
2Voyna Warp. 73
3Do serediny sentyabr To Mid-September 1941p. 108
4Do serediny oktyabr' To Mid-October 1941p. 142
5Oktyabr October 1941p. 172
6Noyabr' November 1941p. 196
7Defcafcr' December 1941p. 229
8Noviygod New Yearp. 258
9Yanvar January 1942p. 266
10Fevral' February 1942p. 297
11Mart March 1942p. 357
12Aprel'-Maj April-May 1942p. 394
13lyun' June 1942p. 430
14Iyul' July 1942p. 458
15Simfonya Nr. 7 Symphony No, 7p. 476
Do svidaniya Farewellp. 489
Notesp. 494
Bibliographyp. 514
Acknowledgementsp. 521
Indexp. 523
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