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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar" / Sergei Baikov, bass; Estonian National Male-Voice Choir; Saulius Sondeckis, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra; St. Petersburg Camerata

Notes & Reviews:

In 1961 Yevgeny Yevtushenko published a poem entitled Babi Yar in the Literaturnaya gazeta. Babi Yar was the name of a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev which in 1941 had been the scene of a mass execution where, within nthe space of thirty-six hours, some 34,000 Jewish men, women and children were shot by a special unit of the German SS. In this poem Yevtushenko used the National Socialists' act of genocide as the starting-point of an attack on anti-Semitism in general, which he pilloried as a timeless evil that was widespread throughout the world, but which, he implied, was especially rife in Russia. Few Russian composers of the past were above reproach as far as anti-Semitism was concerned. Of these, the two that spring most immediately to mind are Rimsky-Korsakov and Shostakovich. Shostakovich had already revealed his phil-Semitic sympathies in his song-cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry, written during the final years of Stalinism but forced to wait until 1955 for its first performance, which finally took place only against a background of considerable resistance. It was enough for the composer to read Yevtushenko's Babi Yar for him to decide to set it to music. Initially he thought in terms of a single movement, but after completing it in this form he resolved to add four further movements, all of them settings of other poems by Yevtushenko: Humour, In the Stone, Fears, and Career.


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