Saturday, March 12, 2016

Anderson, M.T. Symphony for the City of the Dead.

Anderson, M.T.  Symphony for the City of the Dead.    Candlewick Press  2015  456p  $25.99  ISBN 978-0-7636-6818-1      hs/adult    Nonfiction  E-BN 

“Gradually, like the emigration of an insidious, phantom population, Leningrad belonged more to the dead than to the living.  The dead watched over streets and sat in snow-swamped buses.  Whole apartment buildings were tenanted by them, where in broken rooms, dead families sat waiting at tables.  Their dominion spread room by room, like lights going out in the evening.” 

The life of enigmatic composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote the titular symphony for Leningrad –
“The City of the Dead -- is set against the history of Russia as events unfold starting with Bloody Sunday in 1905 through the Siege of Leningrad in World War II.  Comprehensive in depth and breadth of coverage, author M. T. Anderson exhaustively explores the impact that events had on the life and creative process of the composer, and the way he immortalized these events through his complicated compositions, which served as detailed evocative messages for those with the skills and musical savvy to decode them.

Horrific descriptions of Stalin’s purges, the deprivations suffered by the citizens of Leningrad, and man’s inhumanity to man are offset by lyrical descriptions illuminating the intricacies of Shostakovich’s musical legacy.  M.
T. Anderson’s attention to detail, combined with the significant length of the text, may overwhelm some readers, but those who persist will be haunted by the vivid history and fascinating anecdotes long after finishing the book.  The material is well-researched, and both the historical and political aspects of events are presented objectively.  This is an important addition to history collections in academic and public libraries.      

Summary: Biography of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, combined with an in-depth examination of significant historical events that unfolded during his lifetime and influenced his creative process.

Russian Revolution, Dmitri Shostakovich               --Hilary Welliver

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