1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable testament to the power of music,
This review is from: The Conductor (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have really enjoyed reading this novel.
The book concerns the preparations of a performance of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, the 'Leningrad', which was started during the Nazi siege of that city during the Second World War. The work came to symbolise the Soviet defiance against Nazism and had fantastic propaganda value.
Although the symphony was performed all over the world by some of the world's greatest conductors (like Toscanini) and had been premiered in Russia, the first Leningrad performance was entrusted to Karl Eliasberg. Eliasberg was the conductor of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra, and together they were very much the poor relations to the more glamorous Leningrad Philharmonic and their chief conductor Yevgeni Mravinsky. However, the stars had been evacuated to Siberia and Leningrad was a city that was suffering from the onslaught and its citizens were starving. Many musicians had died or gone to fight and the ones that were left were lacking in strength and ability to cope with the demands of the music.
Against this background, Eliasberg's achievement of preparing for a performance becomes truly heroic.
The book is a very enjoyable tale with accounts of real people like Eliasberg and Shostakovich and their wives with those of some fictional ones (the violinist Nikolai and his daughter Sonya). The descriptions of the privations of war are brilliantly written.
The sad thing is that Eliasberg (who grew in confidence and authority through the book) did not become a famous conductor. I read that Mravinsky, when he returned to Leningrad was jealous of Eliasberg's success, and saw to it that he got dismissed from his job in the radio orchestra.