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Thu Feb 1, 2018, 12:22 PM

We need our own Russian artillery and our own Shostakovich.

Do you know something about the siege of Leningrad?
Are we as stalwart as Leningraders were during WW2?

I relate the following as we are under our own 'siege,' if you will, by, in this odd case, Russian mafia interests and our own fascists citizens.

And also because I deeply love the city of St Petersburg and the dear friends I have there.

January 27 was the 74th anniversary of the lifting of that siege, one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history.. It had gone on for 872 days.

The Leningraders were not only fighting the Germans, but Stalin as well, who was jailing and murdering any opposition to his regime throughout the country, including thousands of high ranking politicians, government employees and military officers.

It was just before and during the siege that Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his 7th Symphony.

There is a fascinating history behind the piece. The first performance in Leningrad took place in August, 1942, while the city was still under siege. The Leningrad Philharmonic, the premier orchestra in the city and still one of the great orchestras in the world as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, was supposed to play it. But the musicians of the orchestra, along with Shostakovich, had been evacuated to save their lives. So it was ultimately performed by the starving survivors of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra in the Leningrad Philharmonie, the hall that is to this day the home of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

Just before the concert, the Russian artillery opened up a tremendous barrage against the German lines to silence their guns for a period. Then, the concert was BROADCAST over loud speakers throughout the city as a rallying cry, and also aimed at the German army, an experience which, by many accounts, terrified the German soldiers.

In January 1985 I visited Leningrad, stayed in the then Europskaya Hotel directly across the street from that venerable concert hall. It was -20F. I attended a concert there where the Shostakovich 5th Symphony was performed. I am a retired percussionist. After the concert I met backstage with the percussionists and others in the orchestra, and we snuck into to my hotel, where 7 of us drank 7 bottles of vodka. (I have the photos to prove it.)

I had re-connected with one of the percussionists about 2 years ago, who is also retired. In February last year the St Petersburg Philharmonic was about to play a concert in a city near where I live. I invited my dear Russian friend to come, but he could not.

I went to that concert. They again played the Shostakovich 5th Symphony, which I have played many times. Afterwards, I again met with the percussionists, all younger musicians now, and we went out to drink vodka together. They of course knew my old friend well. There was laughter, celebration and not a few tears all around.

In the early 1980s I was fortunate enough to play three concerts under Maxim Shostakovich, the son of Dmirty Shostakovich. We played his father's 10th Symphony.
We need our own “Russian artillery” and our own Shostakovich.... and our own willingness to fight back!

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