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Musicians & tQ Writers On Anti-Fascist Anthems
Luke Turner , October 4th, 2016 08:32

Featuring contributions from Ben Durutti, Penny Rimbaud, Bobby Barry, Jeremy Allen, Ben Myers, Kevin McCaighy, Stewart Smith, Neil Cooper, Matt Evans, Tony F Wilson, Leo Chadburn, Emily Mackay, David Bennun, Phil Harrison, Arnold De Boer, Joel McIver, Russell Cuzner, Jeremy Bolm, John Doran, TV Smith, James Sherry, Jonathan Meades, Tristan Bath, JR Moores, Julian Marszalek, Captain Sensible, Andy Moor, Christine Casey, Nic Bullen and Stewart Lee


Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, aka The Leningrad Symphony

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 was completed and premièred in 1941, during the Nazi siege of the conductor’s home town of Leningrad (present day St. Petersburg) where millions of civilians and soldiers would lose their lives in the costliest siege in human history. It soon became the spearhead of a Stalinist propaganda campaign, perceived as a symbol of resistance against the invading German totalitarians. During the hastily pulled together and arduous première in the besieged Leningrad (the musicians themselves were starving and would collapse during rehearsals; three died before the performance date) the performance was broadcast throughout the city, and even directly towards the Germans themselves via loudspeakers. The rousing 75 minute piece of music was weaponized by the Soviets, and temporarily strapped rocket boosters to the morale of the Leningraders. Shostakovich had actually been widely denounced by Soviet censors only a few years prior, narrowly escaping Stalin’s horrific Great Purge of the late 1930s that saw hundreds of thousands imprisoned or killed, including his uncle, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law. Revisionist readings reframe the symphony. In the memoir Testimony by Solomon Volkov, Shostakovich purportedly claims it wasn’t about Leningrad under siege, but rather “about the Leningrad that Stalin destroyed and that Hitler merely finished off.” Whether those loudspeakers in the besieged city were meant for the ears of the Wehrmacht or Stalin, the bombastic peaks and mournful lows are far from the “tombstones” Shostakovich saw his works as. It’s a clenched fist, moving too fast for the fascists to see before it hits them.
Tristan Bath