Dmitry Shostakovich - Symphony No. 7
This list features the seventh symphony for orchestra written by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975). Dedicated to Shostakovich's native city of Leningrad, it received its première by the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra on March 5th, 1942, not in Leningrad, but in the city of Kuybyshev. Shostakovich had originally intended for the première to be performed in Leningrad by the Leningrad Philharmonic, which had premièred all but one of his earlier symphonies, but from 1941 to 1943, Russia was in the midst of World War II and Leningrad was under siege by Nazi forces. As a result, thousands of people had been evacuated from Leningrad, including all members of the Philharmonic, and the première had to be planned for a different city.
Following the concert in Kuybyshev, it was decided that a Leningrad première on August 9, 1942 would bolster the morale of those still living inside the besieged city. What went into the preparation of this performance is simply astounding: a copy of the score had to be airlifted into the city; a make-shift orchestra was cobbled together consisting of surviving members of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra, amateur civilians, and any military soldier musicians that could be spared; a special Russian military bombing operation was deployed to prevent the Nazis from targeting the concert hall; extra rations of food were donated to the orchestra by Leningradians in an effort to ensure the musicians would be healthy enough to perform.
The hall was overflowing on the day of the concert with many attendees outside crowded around open windows. The condition of the performers was so poor that many appeared that they might not make it to the end. (The 7th Symphony is Shostakovich's longest.) Upon the finale, though, the orchestra was awarded tearful applause that lasted nearly an hour, by some accounts.
The emotional and physical toll of the performance and its preparation were not lost on the members of the audience because, in fact, it had been shared with them. The legacy of the première is far-reaching and attests to the fact that music is so much more than just ink on a page and sounds in the air.
This recording is a performance by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Ahronovitch.
Keep scrolling to find some other works composed by Shostakovich during World War II (authorized users) and video performances of Symphony No. 7 (all users).