Dmitri Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony

in Words


from the performance of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra

conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky

Live recording in Leningrad, March 1982

CD Philips 422 442-2 or Russian Disc RDCD10917











 Hymn. Blackness. Open eyes cannot penetrate the darkness. The city is in fervour. It knows. Feelings of fear and fury stifle each other.

High above, a light is burning. It is still weak and sheds no light. Its immanence imposes its pace.

It brightens; becomes blinding, inflicts pain. Bodies are bent, its icy breath blows, its roar eats away the flesh.






It fades away, the dimly lit sky remains dull, featureless. Through the fog can be seen a straight and narrow pathway, the fine spidery branches of some Winter tree. A man and a woman, the town around them seems distant; the consciousness of the forthcoming tragedy engulfs them in waves.

They stand in a dazed quietness.











From beyond the skylines rises a call to ruin, it pervades them; dislocating force.

A couple, bound together. Shoulder to shoulder they feel safe. In their chest, their voices sink and drown. Embraced, they are submitted.

Anguish. A thick blood seizes the brain, they are breathless.








Rest is a worn-out paralysis. The news is spreading far and away by word of mouth.

Their lives are folded back on themselves. The echo softly brings back the foggy horns.

An upsurge of love holds them, tighter.

The oblivion that surrounded them dissolves into thin air; awake now, they remain still, ultimate stillness.







The hour of parting. A whole hypnotised people is converging. Long steam whistles are getting closer, the crowd standing on the embankments intends to approach, here it comes rushing, heavy, black with soot under the beating drums. The locomotive's unsteady pace takes him away in a blaze of bugles. Victory already has a bitter taste







These soldiers are no longer parading, in the dead of night the carriages cling to the rails. Bawdy songs are exorcisms against fear; when they die out, each of them has to face his own fears, sitting in front of blind openings, anticipating the terror.
The train stops and is emptied, the fifes set the pace for the dazed men. Decaying lights  fly over  the mountains.  That is  where they  are driven.  An aura,  a swarm  of











lightning underlines the crests. All is gone in a flash. The column is swallowed by the tunnel, bound for the final battle. In the smoke, the dust, the drifts of gasoline, it pierces through rock, bumps, speed, heroes. The end of the tunnel is getting nearer, and nearer.

Nobody will stir; the convoy is in the city itself. They shall all behold the same wasteland.
The place is deserted.















In the early morning light. A flag, some barbed wire encircled by frost, a seated sentry. The man, far from his beloved, talks to her as if she could hear him.
 He cannot forget what he has lived through, what his eyes have seen, his strength gone, he tells his tale; a stray animal, his bewilderment is transmogrified into pain. He is subdued. Alone.
...An indescribable ointment; she seizes him, warms him. He stands up again for her.

She is replaced with the falling snow, that spins like the world, all around him.
Dark grey smoke glides like a dead thing. The wide road goes white to the horizon. Trumpets celebrate the soldiers who took it. Now these men are gone, their friends and families are scattered. They play in a vacuum.
The man survives in the vast landscape. His ravaged hope is still alive.

Allegretto, 2nd movement

Movements 1, 2, 3, 4, 5