Sixty years ago on August 9th, 1942, Dmitry Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony sounded for the first time in besieged Leningrad. Only three of the participants in that famous concert are still alive today: Viktor Orlovsky (the trombone) who lives in Moscow, Galina Yershova (the flute) and Viktor Kozlov (the clarinet) who live in St. Petersburg. The instrument on which Kozlov played on that memorable evening is kept in the museum of one of the schools in St. Petersburg's Central District.
An honorary pensioner of the Mariinsky Theatre orchestra in which he worked for 25 years, Kozlov, now 79, played in the orchestra of the Leningrad Military District headquarters during the war.
He told a RIA Novosti correspondent that conductor Karl Eliasberg had to specially create an orchestra to be able to perform the Seventh Symphony. He had to invite musicians from the orchestra of the Leningrad Radio Committee in which only 28 members had remained by 1942.
The first rehearsals lasted only 10-15 minutes. Shostakovich's Seventh Sympathy is known to be hard to perform and for the hungry and emaciated Leningrad musicians it was doubly so. Some of them were not even strong enough to hold the instruments. Despite the fact that for the period of the rehearsals which lasted two months the musicians had their food rations increased, several of them did not live to see the day of the concert.
Eliasberg who was also extremely emaciated, spent some time in hospital in Astoria hotel and came to the rehearsals straight from the sick ward. On the score of one of the musicians of that legendary orchestra you can still see a drawing showing hollow-cheeked Eliasberg conducting his orchestra sitting on a chair.
Shostakovich who began to write his famous symphony before evacuation from besieged Leningrad in October 1941, could not attend its premier performance.
The composer sent the conductor and the musicians who performed his work in the besieged city a telegram with words of gratitude.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969