Shostakovich began writing this symphony in July 1941, completing the first movement at the end of August. Barely ten days later the German army encircled and cut off the city beginning a siege which would last 872 days and during which about one million people, a third of the city’s population would die.
The most remarkable wartime performance was given in Leningrad itself, still under siege, on 9 August 1942. The only remaining musicians, the Radio Orchestra, were augmented by extra players brought back from the front lines and were given extra rations while they rehearsed under Karl Eliasberg. The Philharmonic Hall was packed and the performance was broadcast not only throughout Leningrad, but also, in a show of defiance, to German troops outside the city.
Every January, in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, there is a display of fireworks in celebration of the lifting of the 900-day siege of the city and a performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony.
Find out more about the symphony and the historical background in our programme notes.