In September 1941, Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history - almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943-1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and - eventually - one another to stay alive.
Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens - the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.
This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power - and layered meaning - of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award-winning author M. T. Anderson.
©2015 M. T. Anderson, original book published by Candlewick Press (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved
Before beginning this audio book, I was only minimally familiar with classical music and had even less knowledge about the history of Russia under Communist rule. Therefore, much of the information in this book was new to me. I was both horrified and inspired by this account of life in Stalinist Russia, especially during the Nazi siege of Leningrad, and amazed by Shastakovich himself. Kudos to M. T. Anderson for clear and flowing prose and for his fine performance of it. His pronunciation of Russian names and places seemed spot on, but I don't speak Russian so I'm only guessing. I also appreciated hearing snatches of Shastakovich's music, even though Anderson's description of it was so good that the written word would have been sufficient to get a feel for it.
I highly recommend this audio book, whether you're a classical music lover or not, a history buff or not. I was neither and it has changed my life.
I'll have to wait a while until I listen to this again, just because it is so intense. I had to carry tissues while I listened because the tears kept coming, both from sorrow and joy. I usually avoid books read by the author, but MT Anderson did a fantastic job.
The people of Leningrad who inexplicably survived the siege really formed the backbone of the story. Anderson provided a balanced portrayal of the good, the bad and the ugly of ordinary people struggling through unimaginable horror.
The emotional denouement was the performance of the 7th symphony in a starving Leningrad still under siege. People who had been eating wallpaper paste for months found the grace to be moved by a piece of music.
This is the kind of book you force on people, begging them to read it just so you can discuss it with somebody. It's technically a young adult book, but I'm middle aged and never found it simplistic. I wish this book could replace To Kill a Mockingbird, which my kids read in high school a few years ago; the possibilities for meaningful discussion are amazing.
A powerful and true story about music's influence on the outcome of World War Ii. I savored every minute.
Fascinating biography of Dmitri Shostakovich, paralleling the Russian Revolution, the rise of Lenin and Stalin, and the German invasion, centered around the siege of Leningrad. Great story read by the author, M.T. Anderson, about Shostakovich writing his 7th (the Leningrad) Symphony, a true artist's response to the events and conditions. Lots of detail about the rise of Stalin, his unparalleled brutality towards his own people and his incompetence, and about the invasion and heroic and tragic actions of the Russian people. Truly marvelous.
I love history, love finding new stories about WW2, that's why I got this. However that is not the audience for this book, I'm not sure who this book is aimed at but wow is it over the top and remarkably dull. I gave up after 2 hours, skipped head (which I never do) to get to the actual siege and they still had not gotten to that part. I gave up and refunded the book, which I rarely do - I have hundreds and hundreds of books, I've given up on only a tiny few of them - this is one. I really truly don't understand the glowing reviews, perhaps if you only care about music and art you will find this more compelling.
The reader is fine but feels like he should be reading books for teens, his voice doesn't really match the content well and he talks like he's speaking to children. He's not bad by any means, he's just a poor choice for this book.
A nuanced and thought provoking look at Soviet politics in World War II, at the power of art in the hierarchy of human needs and at the heart of the Russian people. Read movingly by the author himself. Highly recommend.
Symphony for the City of Dead takes its listeners back to Russia in the 1940s and lets them feel as if they're experiencing it for themselves.
I loved the blend of history, humanism, and I enjoyed learning about music.
I learned so much on so many levels, especially history and music, of course. Also, so much passion and understanding revealed about human needs, desires, and what makes us human. I love the book and selected it as my choice for all my book clubs.
MT Anderson, the author, is the narrator and he is excellent. This story made me, living in the climate that we do, appreciate what these people endured under the dictatorship of evil and heartless men.
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