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.
Of course, not all nonfiction is boring, but some focuses so much on facts that the story is lost. Not this story. Anderson guides us through Russian history-from the Revolution to the Cold War -through the events in the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Readers feel the horror of Stalin's cruel regime and visualize the frozen, emaciated corpses stacked like logs in the streets during the siege of Leningrad. That Shostakovich survived the pogroms, WWII, and the Communists hatred is a testament to his ability to mold himself into the person the party needed at that moment.
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.
This is a semi biography on a legendary Soviet composer. It is interesting but not for someone who is looking for war specific information on Germany vs the Soviet Union during WW2.
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