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Composers Datebook: Grainger and Shostakovich

Percy Grainger was featured on today's Composers Datebook. See below!

Grainger and Shostakovich go public

On today's date in 1928, Percy Grainger -- Australian-born American composer, pianist and folk song collector -- was married to Ella Viola Ström, a Swedish poet and painter. It was a very public ceremony that took place in the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater, outside Los Angeles. Illuminated by a lighted cross on a nearby mountain, and with a Swedish Lutheran minister presiding. Some 20,000 people were in the audience as Grainger capped the ceremony by conducting his new orchestral composition, a work dedicated to his wife, titled: To a Nordic Princess.

Grainger's wedding music may have involved 20,000, but in sheer numbers it was surpassed by a quite different kind of public performance that took place on this day in 1942, in the blockaded city of Leningrad. As surrounding Nazi troops were bombarded into silence, Leningrad city authorities put together a ragtag orchestra, many of its members called back from the front, in order to inspire the suffering populace by playing for them the recently completed “"Leningrad Symphony," the Seventh, by Dimitri Shostakovich.

The score had to be flown in under cover of darkness and copied out by hand, by a team of copyists working day and night. On the night of the concert, the hall was packed, and the performance, along with the thundering applause that followed it, was broadcast throughout Leningrad on loudspeakers, and even to the dispirited German troops outside the city.

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