Leningrad by Brian Moynahan


In Leningrad: Siege and Symphony, Brian Moynahan sets the composition of Shostakovich’s most famous work-his seventh symphony- against the tragic canvas of the siege itself and the years of repression and terror that preceded it. Using a wealth of new material, Moynahan tells the story of the cruelties inflicted by Stalin and Hitler on a city of exquisite beauty and rich cultural history, and the symphony that inspired its survival.

Details Leningrad

Release DateOct 13th, 2015
PublisherGrove Press
GenreHistory, Cultural, Russia, Nonfiction, War, World War II, Music

Reviews Leningrad

  • Susan
    Subtitled, "martyred by Stalin, starved by Hitler, immortalised by Shostakovich" it is clear before you even open this book that you are in for an emotive read. This is an incredible book about a city besieged by the Germans, starved, under attack, living in fear of their own regime and yet still able to remain defiant. Stalin notoriously disliked Leningrad, believing them bourgeois and distrusting their links with the Romanov family, while Hitle...
  • Connie G
    When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, they quickly headed for Leningrad and cut off the supply routes into the city. The only way food and other supplies could be brought into Leningrad was to use boats to cross Lake Ladoga. When the weather turned frigid, they switched to trucking supplies across the ice, hoping the ice would hold. People were eating tree bark, sawdust, leather, cats, dogs, rats, and some even resorted to can...
  • Chrissie
    The book pulled me in. It is an excruciatingly difficult read. The primary focus is the siege, not the man. This is not a biography of the composer Shostakovich. Both this book and Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad complement each other. The latter book has more about the composer, his personality, his family and his life up to and through the siege. Moynahan, historian and journalist, documents the...
  • Nooilforpacifists
    Bogs down in places; wanted more about the music, less about the prolonged battle between evil and evil. Still, good pieces, and some great quotes; more detailed review to follow.I agree with most of this:http://www.weeklystandard.com/article...
  • Charlie
    A most difficult yet extremely interesting book to read. The story is about Dmitri Shostakovich's struggle to finish his work on the Seventh Symphony during Stalin's Terror and Hitler's siege on Leningrad. Leading up to the Seventh Symphony, other Shostakovich's works were presented in concert that energized the citizens of Russia and the world. Musicians were hard to find since many were feeble and dying from Stalin's Terror, starvation, and fig...
  • Norman
    This is a staggering work relating the tale of how Shostakovich wrote his amazing 7th Symphony against the backdrop of Soviet repression, Nazi invasion and the dreadful experiences from the siege of Leningrad. It makes a fantastic pairing to read such an incredible story of a piece of music and then go listen to it, with the book bring the piece even more alive as the stories infuse the music with depth and feeling and a sense of place and time. ...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    This book is on the siege of Leningrad during WWII and the composer Shostakovich making of his seventh symphony in honor of the beleaguered home city. The seventh symphony was very popular in the U.S. who had joined Russia in the fight against Germany. The story is also about the horrors that Shostakovich endured under the Stalinist purges and paranoia of the NKVD in the 30s and Starvation of the city as it was surrounded by Nazi forces in the wi...
  • Rob Weedon
    You are in a besieged city of 3 million people, you can starve to death,freeze to death,be blown up by artillery or aerial bombardment,be murdered for a scrap of food or be unexpectedly seized, tortured and shot by the secret police.So what do you do?You put on a performance of a new symphony by Shostakovich!
  • Gaylord Dold
    Moynihan, Brian. Leningrad: Siege and Symphony, The Story of the Great City Terrorized by Stalin, Starved by Hitler, Immortalized by Shostakovich, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2015 (542pp.$30)Stalin despised Leningrad that, as St. Petersburg, had been the locus of the October coup d’etat conducted by old-line Bolsheviks who were, one-by-one, being shot in the Great Terror. Designed and elaborated by Peter the Great, himself a demented auto...
  • Patrick
    There are a few great concerts in history that I would love to have heard. They are long in the past, such as the premiere of Beethoven's 5th, a four hour long concert in December where the heating failed. To hear that music as those concertgoers heard it that night would be magnificent. I feel the same way about the premiere of Shostakovich's 7th in Leningrad. It had received it's first premiere months earlier in Kuibyshev, where the composer an...
  • Ruth
    This book was so long and detailed I did wonder if it would take as long as the original siege to get through it. But I finally got there and it can now nestle in the bookshelf between 'Stalingrad' (Beevor) and 'Archangel'(Harris). Surely someone's written 'Vladivostok'? I've read a few books about Russia and St Petersburg, even went for a honeymoon there (although my darling husband did ask if we could visit Leningrad as well). But this is the f...
  • Steve
    I've been a fan of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony since I first heard it, over 20 years , and was somewhat familiar with the conditions leading to its creation. However, this book goes into incredible detail over 500 pages of month by month descriptions of what was happening in the city of Leningrad during the siege. This is not a story for the weak of stomach, as the author goes into great detail on the growing desperation in the city as the blocka...
  • Jan
    Well-written and suitably composed account of the horrors that befell Lenningrad and its inhabitants prior to and during the WWII siege. Interwoven into the narrative of the many individual tragedies and sorrows the reader is also treated to a fascinating account of how Dmitri Shostakovich's 7th symphony was created and performed in the besieged city under terrible circumstances.
  • Kathleen Dixon
    Again, this is one of those books that it's really hard to give a star rating to - even when thinking purely subjectively. It's compelling reading, but what a harrowing account of Stalinist Russia! 'Like' is quite simply not a word one can used about this. Nevertheless, it's not a mediocre book, or even just average, so 3 stars would be an insult.Moynahan takes us into the lives and minds, often through diary records and letters, of the people su...
  • karl
    Most of the book's attention is on the German siege of Leningrad from Fall 1941 to Summer 1942. Its sidebar is about the symphony (and all art) scene there with a primary focus on the great composer Schostakovich and his family and friends. Read on Kindle the book ends at about 70% meaning a lot of footnotes and biography. Sometimes the details overwhelmed the story line, like reporting of 11,314 people dying in starvation in Leningrad based on t...
  • Janelle
    On August 9, 1942 a starved, hodge-podge group of musicians in a city that had been besieged for a year defiantly played Shostakovich's 7th Symphony. A native of Leningrad who came perilously close to death several times for displeasing the Soviets with his compositions, Shostakovich christened this the Leningrad Symphony after his beloved city. People were so starved they were eating boiled glue with well over half a million civilians ultimately...
  • Tony Parsons
    Set in WWII the horrors & atrocities that prevailed between Russia (Joseph Stalin) & Germany (Adolph Hitler).It presented the Leningrad Symphony era of that age & those elite who were murdered because of their musical genesis & celebrity status. Right up there with the Monument Men. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write ...
  • Frank McAdam
    This is great history writing. Moynahan makes the siege of Leningrad come alive as he provides a detailed chronicle of the Nazi encirclement as well as portraits of those on both sides who were caught in it. The descriptions of mass starvation and cannibalism are harrowing as is the reporting on the military operations in which countless Russian soldiers' lives were thrown away for no purpose. The book also tells of the Stalinist terror that grip...
  • Michael
    A thorough, enjoyable account of everything the title promises. The story of Leningrad under Soviet USSR, its siege by Nazi Germany, its triumph through Shostakovich's 7th Symphony. It is fortunately neither too technical on WWII military history or on musical knowledge that anyone should feel daunted in picking it up. While a bit repetitive in its story of Leningrad citizens repressed, starved, or dying, it still presents an engaging narrative d...
  • Paul
    It's not really possible to say you enjoy a book when its theme is the terrible devastation caused by the Nazi siege of Leningrad from 1941-43. A city starved, bombed, brutalised by both Hitler and Stalin and his henchmen. The scale of cannibalism in the name of survival is just one shocking detail. And yet, in Moynahan's book, it is possible to witness something transcendent about the writing of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, memorial to his b...
  • Angus Mckay
    It's a grueling read, at times. Almost makes you feel as though you're enduring the siege with them.Modern horror stories pale in comparison to the realities of cannibalism and the brutality of the NKVD that took place there. While the world loves to refer to Hitler as its great, evil ruler, he hardly compares to Stalin.I cried on multiple occasions, as I read the stories of the children.The book builds effectively to its triumphant finale, with ...
  • Rhonda
    Very interesting history about how and why Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony, the "Leningrad." This history grings to the front the effects of Stalin's Terror before and during the Seige. As if the citizens didn't have enough to deal with managing a major famine and the barrage of bombings fron the assailing Nazis, the Stalin regime continued its arrests Nd executions all during the Seige. Shostakovich had to be very careful because he was ...
  • Jon
    It certainly conveys the human tragedy of the siege. Having the context switch between various stages made it harder to read. Nevertheless it was sheer tragedy that got me. So many people lost their lives. Whole bloodlines gone.
  • S.K.Fischer
    Would love to read more about the musician alpinists who climbed the buildings and monuments to camouflage them. I think this would make a brilliant novel combining music and climbing skills.
  • Ruth Bonetti
    Such a grim topic made this a slow read. Worth enduring, but not easy. I persevered with this dark epic as I'm intrigued by the siege of Leningrad. My father's Finnish cousin Rolf fought across the border into Russia during these tough years of the '40s. With his crack "Jaeger" regiment he took 30 patrols over the border into Russia on skis in white camouflage. Rolf sang the songs he learned during this time as his party tricks, but his wife told...
  • Dawn
    I am so sad . I read this account of this incredible musical triumph of the human spirit and the power of art and I was in tears towards the finality of it all. With my copy of the book they sent a complementary CD of Shostakovich's 7th symphony and I listened in tears . It was so beautiful. I am glad I made myself wait until the end of all of the horrific suffering and tragedy to listen to the ending beauty of life as the souls played loudly to ...
  • Ivan
    FIRST LINE REVIEW: "There has never been a performance to match it. Pray God, there never will." A great beginning to a book I was really looking forward to reading. After all, I've written a play on the very topic. And while the author has clearly done a LOT of research, I'm afraid that he needed a better editor to help him pull it all into a more readable "story." Told in a way that feels like he's just writing down every note he found in chron...
  • Val
    This is supposed to be a history of a city through five of its darkest years and of a piece of music which describes it. Unfortunately the book is a little short of context, politically during the late 1930s, militarily during the early 1940s, geographically and culturally. This means that the book tends to come across as a list of pointless deaths, which I'm sure were significant to the individuals concerned but less so to anyone else when shorn...
  • Scottnshana
    Loved it. All the great pieces of the Siege story are here--the snot-freezing-in-your-nose Arctic circle cold; the constant shelling and bombing; grinding up acorns to make bread; people murdering and eating their neighbors' pets, and then their neighbors; and the starving musicians too weakly showing up to the symphony each day to practice Shostakovich's defiant symphony. I have read a couple of other highly-entertaining and -informative books o...