Friday, June 22, 2018

On Another June 22 - A Defining Event That Changed the Direction of History, and Gave Us Musical Masterpieces...

On June 22, 1941, a long-standing plan of  Adolf Hitler came into being - approximately three million  German troops  crossed a nearly 2000 mile border and invaded Soviet Russia.  A war of extermination had begun, ending in May of 1945 in Berlin after  a war of unprecedented carnage - a war which included such horrors as the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted  some 900 days, with approximately  one of every three of the city's inhabitants dying. A war which included the ravaging of  thousands   of Russian villages and hundreds of its museums, small and large. A war which changed the face of Europe;  a Europe transformed into a geopolitical shape that remains today a direct result of that conflict.
Out of that unparalleled period of darkness comes a number of  statements without words, one being a statement created by the great Russian composer  Dimitri Shostakovich  he titled "Leningrad,"  his  7th symphony, which originally was meant as a statement directed as glorification of Vladimir Lenin. However, that statement thereafter   became a musical  expression  of unbridled hate of the Invader and a tribute to those who defended the city. It remains, arguably, the most powerful musical statement by a Russian composer to emerge  from the Horror of 1941-45. It is even today performed in modern Russia  as a reminder of the titanic struggle and  subsequent  victory  over Nazi Germany.
Another reigning composer from Mother Russia, Serge Prokofiev, wrote three major works for solo piano  which were titled the War Sonatas, numbers 6,7 and 8,  during this time period. The most often played, no.7,  produces  a third movement containing a merciless isorhythmic forward thrust with every measure comprising  of  seven beats, which brilliantly describes the unremitting tragedy and  overpowering asymmetry of the meaning of War. Vladimir Horowitz recorded it shortly after Prokofiev had completed these works, and this performance remains one of the great pianist's most enduring contributions.
Today there remains a number of music historians who believe that these compositions remain the most meaningful expressions of the world's greatest conflict, given us by these Soviet composers.
Do listen, especially, to the "Leningrad" Symphony  and the seventh Sonata. For me, these two compositions  remain among  the most powerful  manifestations of the impact of human history...

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