Decomposed episode about composer Shostakovich.

Symphony for a starving city

Making music under Stalin was a dangerous undertaking — it could end with applause or in a prison camp. In the brutal grip of World War II, Shostakovich composed a symphony so powerful, it was smuggled halfway around the world in order to be played.


This episode of Decomposed includes the following works from these recordings:

Shostakovich: Symphony #5, Op. 47
Vienna Symphony conducted by Eliahu Inbal
Denon 75719

Britten: War Requiem – “Libera Me”
Soloist Emily Magee, Mark Padore & Christian Gerhaher
Bavarian Radio Chorus, Tolz Boys' Choir
Bavarian State Radio Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons
Br Klassik 900120

Shostakovich: Symphony #1, Op. 10
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky
BMG 74321 29401

Shostakovich: Symphony #7, Op. 60 – “Leningrad”
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky
BMG 74321 29405

Shostakovich: Symphony #3, Op. 20 – “First of May”
Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn conducted by Roman Kofman
Dabringhaus 9371210

Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Op. 29
Nadia Krasteva singing the role of Katerina Izmailova
Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Ingo Metzmacher
Orfeo D'or 812112

Shostakovich: Symphony #5, Op. 47
Vienna Symphony conducted by Eliahu Inbal
Denon 75719

Shostakovich: Symphony #7, Op. 60 – “Leningrad”
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky
BMG 74321 29405

Further reading:

  • Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

  • “Orchestral manoeuvres” from The Guardian

  • Shostakovich and Stalin by Solomon Volkov

  • Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as related to and edited by Solomon Volkov

  • The photograph of Dmitri Shostakovich which appears in the episode tile was taken in Finland on Oct. 9, 1958, by Holger Eklund / Lehtikuva.

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