'Elder and the Hallé uncover the sense of despair and surreal absurdity even in the "triumph" of the finale; and while the march is properly violent, many of the solos are played with touching poignancy.' The Times
First performed on 1 March 1942, with the world in the grip of an unprecedented conflict, the symphony's apparent message of resistance and ultimate victory provided audiences with an intoxicating emblem of hope and defiance.
Shortly after the Nazi blockade of Leningrad (now St Petersburg) began in September 1941, Shostakovich and other members of the artistic elite were airlifted out of the city in the interests of their safety. He completed the score of the ‘Leningrad' Symphony, dedicating it to the besieged people of his home city, hundreds of thousands of whom were to be starved or bombed to death that winter.
As a result of the work's far-reaching success, Shostakovich became not just a national but an international icon; at home winning the coveted Stalin Prize First Class and abroad gaining huge international attention.
Whilst official political and media channels portrayed the piece as a rallying call in the fight against Nazism, Shostakovich subsequently revealed that much of it was composed in his head before the war, and claimed that it was as much a response to Stalin's brutality during the notorious purges of the 1930s.
The symphony is scored for vast orchestral forces, including an extensive battery of percussion, a piano, two harps and an array of extra brass instruments that strengthen the climactic moments in the first, third and fourth movements and which are used to great effect in this live recording of the acclaimed opening concert of Hallé's current season.