Symphony No. 7
Kuibyshev Palace of Culture; Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, Samuil Samosud (conductor).
1942, Moscow, Leningrad, Muzgiz.
Dedication: "To the City of Leningrad".
March 5, 1942 in Kuibyshev at the Palace of Culture. Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre of the USSR. Conductor S. Samosud.
The concert was broadcast by all radio-stations of the Soviet Union and relayed abroad. A speech by Shostakovich was broadcast live before the symphony was played.
March 9. 1942 the symphony was played in Moscow, in the Hall of Columns of the House of Unions. Conductor S. Samosud.
July 9. 1942 in Novosibirsk. Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonia. Conductor Y. Mravinsky.
August 9, 1942: Symphony No.7 was played in Leningrad under siege, in the Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia. It was performed by an orchestra conducted by K.Eliasberg.
June 22, 1942 in London. London Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor Henry Wood.
July 19, 1942 in New York. Orchestra of the National Radio Corporation of the USA. Conductor A. Toscanini.
August 14, 1942 in Boston. Boston Symphony Orchestra. Conductor S. Koussevitzky.
September 10, 1942. Mexico City. Conducted by K Chavez.
In 1942-1943 Symphony No.7 was also played in Canada, Argentina,Peru and Uruguay. During the 1945/46 season first performances of the symphony took place in Paris, Prague, Belgrade, Rome, Oslo, Vienna, Sofia, Budapest, Copenhagen, Krakow and Zagreb. During the 1946/47 season the symphony was also performed in Berlin.
"My dear friends! I am speaking to you from Leningrad, while at the very gates to the city fierce battles with the enemy are raging...I am speaking from the front-line.
Yesterday morning I completed the score of the second part of my new symphonic work. <...> I am telling you this so that you all should know that the danger threatening Leningrad has not put a stop to its full-blooded life. <...> All of us are now doing our 'guard-duty'. <...> Soviet musicians, my dear and countless comrades-at-arms, my friends! Remember that a great danger is threatening our Motherland, our life and our art! Let us come to the defence of our Motherland, our life, our music. Let us work with honest and selfless commitment!"
"I completed the first part of this work on September 3rd, the second part on September 17th and the third on September 29th. Now I am completing the fourth and final part. I have never composed at such a pace before."
Symphony No. 7
The Seventh Symphony, Op. 60, was composed in July-December 1941. The first three movements of the symphony were written in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) which, soon after the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War), was in a state of siege. Shostakovich refused to evacuate the besieged city, signed up as a member of the militia, and then as a member of the air defence team on duty on the roof of the conservatory.
On 30 September, Shostakovich, who stubbornly refused to leave Leningrad, was informed that the Military Council of the Front was ordering immediate evacuation of the city. On 1 October, the composer and his family were on a military freight plane headed for Moscow.
On 14 October, the composer and his family left Moscow for Kuibyshev. In Kuibyshev, Shostakovich found himself in a difficult domestic situation, ‘arrangements were made for him and his family to sleep on the floor in one of the schools…,’ recalled artist Nikolai Sokolov. ‘Up to eighteen people were placed in each classroom, with all their luggage as well… They slept on the floor, without mattresses, on whatever they could find, squashed together like sardines.’
On 30 November, when telling Isaak Glikman that he had already written three movements, Shostakovich wrote: ‘I may finish the fourth movement soon, but it is still not ready, even worse, I haven’t even begun it. There are evidently various reasons for this, the main one being weariness after putting so much into writing the first three movements.’ ‘…If I had two rooms and I could sometimes get some time away from the children, I could probably finish the 7th symphony,’ he said in the same letter.
On 24 December, the rough draft of the end of the fourth movement was completed, and the same day, in a letter to Levon Atovmyan, Shostakovich indicated the definite time the entire score would be finished: ‘I am working on the finale of the symphony, which will be finished in 3-4 days.’ On the last page of the author’s manuscript, Shostakovich put the date: 27 December 1941.
So all the work on the Seventh Symphony, beginning with the rough draft of the first movement and ending with the last page of the score, took from 19 July to 27 December 1941.
The premiere of the Seventh Symphony was held on 5 March 1942 in Kuibyshev, in the Kuibyshev Palace of Culture, performed by the orchestra of the U.S.S.R. Bolshoi Theatre under the baton of Samuil Samosud. This performance paved the way not only for the anticipated tempestuous public response but also for the triumph of the symphony throughout the world.
The Moscow premiere of the symphony was held on 29 March 1942 in the Columned Hall of the House of Unions. Samuil Samosud also conducted the joined orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre and All-Union Radio. On 9 July 1942, the Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic under the baton of Yevgeny Mravinsky performed the symphony in Novosibirsk. On 9 August 1942, the symphony was performed in besieged Leningrad. In the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic it was performed by a united orchestra under the baton of Karl Eliasberg. The premiere broadcast on the radio, as well as by means of the intercity loudspeaker network, so that not only the city residents could hear it, but also the German troops.27 The concert in Leningrad became one of the most dramatic pages in the history of the symphony’s performances; in honour of this event, a memorial plaque was mounted on the façade of the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic.
The Seventh Symphony aroused extraordinary interest and a wide public response both in the Soviet Union and throughout the world.
In the summer of 1942, the first foreign performances of the Seventh Symphony were held: on 22 June—the radio premiere, on 29 June—a concert performance in London’s Royal Albert Hall by the Orchestra of the London Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Henry Wood, and on 19 July 1942, in New York in Grand Studio 8-H by the Orchestra of the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
The Seventh Symphony went down in the history of culture as a symbol of the fight against Fascism, became a music chronicle of the war years.
- NEC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini. 1942 // RCA LM 6711, 1967
- NBC Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski. 1942 // Pearl GEMM CDS 9044, 1994
- Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sergiu Celibidache. 1946 // Urania URLP 601
- Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeni Mravinsky. 1953 // MK HD 01380-3, 1965
- Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Karel Ančerl. 1957 // Supraphon DV 5444-5
- New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein. 1962 // Columbia M2L 322, M2S 722
- Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Karl Eliasberg. 1964 // Melodiya M045011 003, 1984
- USSR Symphony Orchestra, Yevgeni Svetlanov. P and I 1968 // Melodiya D022141-2, C 01693-6. 1968
- USSR Radio and Television Large Symphony Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. 1968 // Revelation RV 10059, 1997
- Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin. 1975 // Melodiya C10 06435-8, 1976
- London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink. 1979 // Decca D 213D 2, 1980 Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi. 1988 // Chandos ABRD 1312, 1988
- Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons. 1988 // EMI EL7 49494-1, 1988
- National Symphony Orchestra of America, Mstislav Rostropovich. 1989 // Erato 2292 45414-2, 1990
- London Symphony Orchestra, Maksim Shostakovich. 1990 // Collins Classics 7029-2, 1993
- St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Yuri Temirkanov. 1995 // RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 62548-2, 1996
- Russian State Symphony Orchestra, Valeri Polyansky. 1996 // Chandos CHAN 9621, 1998
- Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Fedoseyev. 1996 // Exton OVCL 00169, 2004
- Kirov and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras, Valery Gergiev. 2001 // Philips CD 470 845-2PH and SACD 470 623-2. 2003
- Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra. Alexander Sladkovsky. 2017 // Melodiya. MEL CD 1002470, 2017 (13 CDs)