Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (the “Leningrad”) Dedicated to the 80th Anniversary of the Leningrad premier in 1942 Music Experience in 3-D Sound Reality with the Original Documentary Footage The Music Video Show at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts. April 13, 2022 @4:00 P.M. Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit The Berman Center for the Performing Arts (6600 W Maple Rd., West Bloomfield Township, MI 48322) Free Admission
Modern recording techniques have come alarmingly far in just a few short years. I've had the pleasure of having several commercial recordings released, and my earliest days in the recording studio were spent amid the flutter of reel to reel tapes. Later, exciting 'improvements' like audio Betamax (yep, you read that right) and then digital media like ADATs came into play. Over the past couple of decades-plus, we've seen the advent of hard drive recording systems, with the ubiquitous use of bells and whistles like ProTools, which can make even amateurs (are you listening, Ashlee Simpson?) sound at least passable, what with pitch correction, WAV editing and the like. Casual listeners to modern day product might be quite surprised to see how a recording is assembled, and assembled is, for better or worse, the correct term. Even back in the days of analog recordings, it wasn't unusual for rhythm tracks to be laid down first, often with 'scratch'; vocals, and then for the vocalist to come in to take their final version at a later date. While editing was certainly a more involved procedure back in the day, tape editors became so facile with their 'archaic' medium that even syllables could be fairly seamlessly fixed for a final product. (Anyone wanting a good laugh should listen to John Barry's commentary on You Only Live Twice, where he details the editing lengths they had to go to get a final take of Nancy Sinatra's vocal on the title tune). However, as often as pop, rock and even Broadway cast recordings were 'assembled' in the halcyon days of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, even after the advent of hard drive recording, you could count on one genre to preserve at least a semblance of the 'live' ensemble experience, and that was of course classical music. Not anymore. Choral composers like Eric Whitacre have pioneered the idea of a 'virtual choir' where people separated by continents are able to 'join together' to sing via such media as YouTube. And now we are introduced to an 'assembled' orchestra under the 'virtual baton' of Alexander Jero. Jero brings sections in separately, and records them, often utilizing previous recordings as reference material. He then assembles the final product in the mixing room. It's an unusual approach for a genre as hopefully organic as classical music, and listeners' reactions may be colored by the knowledge that high tech wizardry has at least helped to craft the architecture of any given performance.
The Symphony No. 7 (known as "Leningrad”) by Dmitri Shostakovich became a symbol of the resistance to fascism and totalitarianism. The symphony was premiered on 5 March 1942 in Kuybyshev city (now Samara). However, the most famous performance of this symphony took place on the 9 August 1942 within the besieged city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to which this piece was dedicated. The siege of Leningrad by Nazi German forces, that began in the Winter of 1941, was so impenetrable that 4,000 to 6,000 residents were dying of starvation every day. The Symphony was performed by the surviving musicians of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra. Most of the musicians were suffering from starvation, which made rehearsing difficult as musicians frequently collapsed, and three died. Despite the dire circumstances, the concert was highly successful, prompting an hour-long ovation. The “Leningrad” premiere was considered by music critics to be one of the most important artistic performances of the War because of its psychological and political effects. Reunion concerts featuring surviving musicians were convened in 1964 and 1992 to commemorate the event.