Three weeks after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Shostakovich volunteered with the Home Guard in Leningrad. As the siege of the city intensified, he worked on his Seventh Symphony, completing three movements before being forced to leave Leningrad and travel east by train. The work was completed in December that year. Initially he gave each movement a programmatic title, but later withdrew them, leaving this epic work as an emblem of heroic defiance in the face of conflict and crisis: ‘I dedicate my Seventh Symphony to our struggle against fascism, to our coming victory over the enemy, to my native city, Leningrad.’
The Leningrad Symphony seen through the eyes of the conductor:‘I would say that it’s about the evil, anti-humanistic power which appears in the first movement. It could be either the Nazis or the Stalinist regime. What’s special in the whole symphony’s construction is that you can immediately see the huge contrast between this power and the pure beauty of the human spirit in the inner movements, especially the slow movement. It represents a victory of the human spirit; it did so even at the first performance because the orchestra performed it without any heating, close to zero temperatures; people who hadn’t eaten for days. They did rehearsals, they performed; it was a sign that we’re still alive, we’re still fighting. My grandmother survived it. On the one hand, people like her can never forget it; on the other, they never talk about it because they’ve seen so much and the memory is so painful.’
Listen to The pity of war: Vasily Petrenko’s podcast conversation with Edward Seckerson
Previous Releases in Vasily Petrenko's Shotakovich Cycle:
‘Petrenko inspires the RLPO to a manner of playing and a level of emotional involvement of extraordinarily potent atmosphere, strength and poignancy … the performance is gripping and has all the hallmarks of a best-seller.’ – Classical CD of the Week, Daily Telegraph (UK)
‘Superlative standards already set by this team’s Shostakovich cycle couldn’t afford to slip in a symphony as great as the Sixth. In the first movement, at least, Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpudlians reach new heights of articulation and sonic beauty.’ – BBC Music Magazine
‘Vasily Petrenko and his excellent orchestra unerringly find the tempo and phrasing to illuminate this great if enigmatic work. More surprisingly, they and the Liverpudlian chorus produce a Second Symphony that nearly transcends its original propagandistic objectives.’ – Fanfare
About the Artists:
Vasily Petrenko was appointed Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006 and in 2009 became Chief Conductor. He is also Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre of his native St Petersburg, and Principal Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
The award-winning Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is the UK’s oldest continuing professional symphony orchestra, dating from 1840. The dynamic young Russian, Vasily Petrenko was appointed Principal Conductor of the orchestra in September 2006 and in September 2009 became Chief Conductor.