Leningrad: Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan; St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past by Catriona Kelly - review by Daniel Beer

Daniel Beer

Surrounded Sound

Leningrad: Siege and Symphony


Quercus 558pp £25

St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past


Yale University Press 464pp £25

A European capital built in defiance of nature, perched precariously on the Baltic coast, St Petersburg has commanded endless discussions over Russian national identity, state power and the towering achievements of Russian culture. The city remains swathed in collective myths and memories of imperial glory, assassination, revolution, terror and war. In the decades since Stalin’s death its inhabitants have often struggled to articulate an identity that can reconcile such a grandiose, inspiring and tragic past with a sometimes underwhelming, squalid and frustrating present.

The single event that defines St Petersburg’s history in the 20th century is not the Revolution but the siege, a tale of martyrdom and heroism that has seared itself onto the city’s collective memory. Brian Moynahan’s Siege and Symphony narrates the history of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony and its inspiring performance

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