Saturday, November 17, 2007

Над Бабьим Яром памятников нет

Babii Yar is a ravine in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. In the course of two days, September 29—30, 1941, German Nazis, aided by their collaborators murdered 33,771 Jewish civilians. The Babii Yar massacre is considered to be the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust.

Dmitrii Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor (Op. 113, subtitled Babii Yar) first performed in Moscow on December 18, 1962 by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and the basses of the Republican State and Gnessin Institute Choirs, under Kirill Kondrashin. The soloist was Vitali Gromadsky.

The work sets poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko that concerned the World War II Babii Yar massacre and other topics.

The first poem, Babii Yar, criticises Soviet anti-Semitism.

The second, "Humour", describes humor as a mischievous rascal who constantly eludes censorship.

The third, "In the Store", glorifies the women of the Soviet Union, always tired from standing in long lines at the store, often in bitter cold.

The fourth, "Fears", recalls the pervasive atmosphere of dread during the Stalin era.

The fifth final poem, "A Career", is a celebration of Galileo's refusal to recant his discoveries about the nature of the heavens, even when faced with the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition.

The symphony was completed during a thaw in Soviet censorship, but even so Nikita Khrushchev criticised it before the premiere, and threatened to stop its performance. The premiere went ahead, but afterwards Yevtushenko was forced to change his poem, replacing a stanza declaring in part "I am every old man shot dead here, I am every child shot dead here" with a stanza mourning the ethnic Russians and Ukrainians that died alongside the Jews at Babii Yar. Thereafter the work was infrequently performed until more recently.

Shostakovich originally intended the first movement to stand by itself, but ideas kept coming to him and he had to expand the work into its current symphonic form.

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