пятница, 7 мая 2010 г.

THE LENINGRAD SYMPHONY


Braving the terrible odds of the Nazi siege, Leningrad was holding its own and stubbornly refused to surrender. Marshal Georgy Zhukov later wrote in his memoirs that “war history had never before seen such battlefield valiance and home front heroism, as was displayed by the unbending defenders of Leningrad.”

Besides their daily toil of defending the city, keeping its plants and factories rolling and tending to the wounded, the Leningraders were also writing poems and music. It was then and there that the renowned Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his famous Seventh Symphony that immediately became a stirring anthem to the unvanquished city on the Neva.

Refusing to leave the city with the rest of the Philharmonic Society early in the war, Shostakovich was bombarding the local recruitment centers with demands to send him out to the frontlines. All his pleas turned down, he then joined his friends digging trenches outside the city. After his attempt to join the militia also fell flat, Shostakovich signed with the local firefighters squad and, during his duty hours on the Conservatory roof, was putting out incendiary bombs the Nazis dropped on the city. It was during those trying days that he actually decided to write his larger-than-life Seventh Symphony…

In a radio message broadcast on September 20, 1941 Dmitry Shostakovich said: “An hour ago I finished writing the second part of my big new symphony… Why am I telling you this? Because I want all the Leningraders who are listening to me to know that life goes on and we are all doing our duty…”

The Leningrad radio orchestra was now too small to play the Seventh Symphony though. The score called for 80 musicians and there was only a handful of them spared by famine and the enemy bullets at the frontlines… Then they made a radio announcement inviting the musicians who were still alive to join in. Unit commanders were instructed to dispatch their musicians with special passes, which said that they had been relieved from combat duty to perform the Seventh Symphony by Dmitry Shostakovich.

Finally, they all got together for the first rehearsal, their hands roughened from combat duty, trembling from malnutrition but everybody still Dmitry Shostakovich as a firefighterclinging to their instruments as if for their own life… That was the shortest rehearsal ever, lasting for just 15 minutes because that was all the emaciated players could afford… And play they did and conductor Karl Eliasberg who was trying his best not to go down himself now knew that the orchestra would play the symphony…

August 9, 1942 was just another day in the Nazi-besieged city. But not for the musicians, though, who, visibly uplifted, were busily preparing for the first ever public performance of the Seventh Symphony. Karl Eliasberg later wrote recalling that memorable day: “The chandeliers were all aglow in the Philharmonic Hall jam packed by writers, artists and academics. Military men were also very much in presence, most of them right from the battlefront…”

The conductor, his tuxedo dangling freely from his emaciated body, stepped to the pulpit, his baton trembling in his hand. The next moment it went up and the hall filled with the stirringly beautiful chords of one of the best music Shostakovich had ever written in his whole life…

When the last cord trailed off there was a momentary silence. Then the whole place literally exploded with thunderous applause. People went up to their feet all, tears rolling down their faces, tears of joy and pride…

Buoyed by the deafening success of their performance and visibly proud of themselves, the musicians were happily hugging each other like soldiers do winning a major battle…

A German soldier who picked up the radio broadcast of that memorable concert was stunned by what he heard: “When I heard Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony being broadcast from the famine-stricken Leningrad I realized that we would never be able to take it. Realizing that, I surrendered…”

The Germans never managed to capture the city. In January 1944 the Red Army counterattacked ending the deadly siege of Leningrad which lasted for 900 days and nights and made Russia’s northern capital an enduring symbol of Soviet courage and invincibility…

Source:The Voice of Russia

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