TARP No. 4 – ‘Leningrad’ by Brian Moynahan

Who? Brian Moynahan, English journalist, historian and, at a guess, Catholic.

What? A mammoth account of the first few years of the Siege of Leningrad, with a particular focus on the composition and performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 7.

When? 2013, though examining the years immediately following the author’s birth. (A coincidence as his surname suggests).

How? Endless anecdotes following recurring characters through an increasingly-tortured city under siege.

Why? This is popular history ala Beevor and Figes, with the same compassionate eye and the same devil-is-in-the-details approach to delivering a vastly-complicated social narrative. While the military sections are thankfully oversimplified and in places glossed, Moynahan’s panoramic presentation of the city’s wartime musical life is fascinating. Shostakovich’s Seventh, which (barring its Invasion theme) is a fairly-forgettable piece of music, is recast in the light of its epic importance to the Allied forces and to the Soviet propaganda machine. It’s only a shame that both the symphony and the book are simply too, too long.

4 January 2017

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