Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Leningrad: Siege and Symphony” as Want to Read:
Leningrad: Siege and Symphony
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Leningrad: Siege and Symphony

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  289 ratings  ·  65 reviews
In Leningrad: Siege and Symphony, Brian Moynahan sets the composition of Shostakovich's most famous work against the tragic canvas of the siege itself and the years of repression and terror that preceded it.

Drawing on extensive primary research in archives as well as personal letters and diaries, he vividly tells the story of the cruelties heaped by the twin monsters of t
Kindle Edition, 496 pages
Published November 7th 2013 by Quercus (first published June 6th 2013)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Leningrad, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Leningrad

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  289 ratings  ·  65 reviews

Sort order
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The birds of death stand at the zenith.
Who will come to help Leningrad?
Make no noise around – it is still breathing,
It is still alive, it can hear everything:
It hears, on the damp bed of the Baltic,
Its sons moan in their sleep
And from its depths, the wails ‘Bread!’ rising up to the seventh heaven.
But this firmament is without mercy.
And from all the windows, death looks out."
(Anna Akhmatova)
Five stars, but did I actually enjoy reading this book? The answer is both yes and no. The book
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 Hitler declared that Leningrad 'must disappear utterly ...more
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 cannibalism during the long winter.

The Russian people
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 battles and the military strategies with much mor
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:
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. One slight criticism is the book ends almost immed ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 fighting for the Red Army.

Difficult to read because
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 winter of 41/42. Links both the large of the war and ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Leningrado: Sitio y Sinfonía” es uno de esos libros que inspiran a seguir viviendo a pesar las adversidades que se nos presenten y a pesar de los horrores y monstruosidades que aquí se describen.

El historiador Inglés Brian Moynahan nos entrega una obra muy vívida y llena de testimonios sobrecogedores. El libro está estructurado de manera cronológica, relatando los hechos que se fueron sucediendo bajo el marco del sitio de Leningrado durante la segunda guerra mundial, en especial durante los añ
Despite owning this for years, I've decided I'm not going to read it in full. I've only skimmed it in parts so far, but I'm getting the sense that Moynahan may have been too taken in with the controversial claims made in Volkov's Testimony: The Memoirs (the so-called authorised memoirs of Shostakovich) and that makes me a feel a little uncomfortable. (See Laurel E. Fay's books and articles for more information on how the authenticity of these "memoirs" was never properly vetted). I've read plent ...more
Rob Weedon
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 autocrat, St. Petersburg was a center of culture where a
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 and his family had been evacuated to. He had been ev ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia-obsession
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 first time I've really, REALLY, been hit by the awf
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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 blockade went on and on without relief over the winter o ...more
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 suffering the siege of Leningrad. He leaves no stone
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2000, storia
Una splendida occasione sfruttata male. La storia della composizione della 7a Sinfonia da parte di Šostakovič viene, a poco a poco, oscurata dall'interminabile disamina degli orrori perpetrati a Leningrado, durante la seconda guerra mondiale. La parte più consistente del libro, molto corposo, consta infatti della mera, fredda, trascrizione di testimonianze, verbali, diari, ricordi ed effetti delle vessazioni inenarrabili operate da Stalin nella città assediata, attraverso lo zelo della polizia s ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 the GDKM (I made up that acronym). When one reads h
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 dying during this time. To make it worse, the Sov ...more
Tony Parsons
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 a positive review. Only an
Frank McAdam
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 gripped the city at the same time the Nazis were attac ...more
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 development in lieu of dry historical accounts. Wit ...more
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 beloved home city and the valiant attempts, almost ...more
Angus Mckay
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 the performance of the symphony in Leningrad.

Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 under constant watch and danger from the Stalin Te ...more
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 that nightmares often woke him during the night, ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 reach the heavens . I suggest this book for anyone ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Moscow 1941: A City & Its People at War
  • Shostakovich and Stalin: The Extraordinary Relationship Between the Great Composer and the Brutal Dictator
  • The Memoirs
  • We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War)
  • Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944
  • Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945
  • The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS Butcher of Prague
  • Glenn Gould, une vie à contretemps
  • Merrill's Marauders: The Untold Story of Unit Galahad and the Toughest Special Forces Mission of World War II
  • Military Innovation in the Interwar Period
  • Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam
  • Dam Busters: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on the Ruhr
  • Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov
  • The Amber Room: The Fate of the World's Greatest Lost Treasure
  • Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising
  • The Battle of the Tanks: Kursk, 1943
  • My Experiences in the World War
  • The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past
Brian Moynahan is an English journalist and historical writer.