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Interactive: North Carolina Symphony Blog

The Brass Section is How Big?

This weekend, we’re wrapping up our exploration of the relationship between music and politics in Stalin’s Russia. A central figure in Stalin’s war-time art propaganda was Dmitri Shostakovich.

Written to depict the struggle of the Russian people of blockaded Leningrad against the Germans, Shostakovich’s powerful Symphony No. 7 became a hugely popular symbol of resistance to fascism during World War II.  The dramatic might of the music written in the face of oppression captures audiences to this day with its intensity and strength.

And, the wartime legend of this work was intensified when the music was smuggled out of the country on microfilm.  It was performed in London and New York shortly after its debut in the Soviet Union in 1942.

The might of “Leningrad” is heightened by the sheer volume of musicians required to perform it. Audiences at this weekend’s performances will experience the largest orchestra of the season thus far, including a huge brass section of nine horns, six trumpets, six trombones and one tuba.

On stage will also be two harps, a piano, and a large percussion section, with one of the most important snare drum pieces in the orchestral repertoire played by Assistant Principal Percussionist Kenneth Whitlow.

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