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Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony #7 in C Major


Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
Buckley Recital Hall, Arms Music Center, Amherst College


Joseph Stalin not only ignored the warnings of his finest generals that German forces were massing at the border, ready to invade the U.S.S.R. and violate the German-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939, he executed them.  Thus he was left with amateurish military leadership when the Germans did invade and instituted a 900-day siege of Leningrad, in which millions died by violence, starvation and cannibalism was rampant.  Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) lived in Leningrad--as St. Petersburg the former capital of Czarist Russia and the home of the Bolshevik Revolution--and wrote the first three movements of Symphony #7, his longest symphony, while the city was under siege.  He was airlifted to Moscow, and then to Kyubyshev (Samara), where he completed the work.  The score was airlifted to major orchestras around the world, and it received a performance in Leningrad itself by the surviving members of a municipal orchestra.

As a testament to sheer survival and triumph of the human spirit, the symphony has few equals.  But perhaps more importantly, it is a depiction of sheer terror--most probably initially conceived as a requiem for victims of Stalinist purges and "hiding in plain sight" rebuke to Stalin, but reconceptualized as a national call to resistance to invasion.  Fidelity to "Mother Russia" would trump repulsion to Stalinism, at least for the duration of the war. 

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Symphony #7 in C major, op. 60 (1942)


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