Stephen Walsh

Spectator books of the year: Stephen Walsh on Leningrad

I’ve reviewed only a handful of books in 2014, but have struck lucky twice. Brian Moynahan’s Leningrad: Siege and Symphony (Quercus, £25) is one of the most moving books I’ve read for ages: a brilliant portrait of Leningrad in the Nazi blockade, culminating in the astonishing events surrounding the first performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony by a depleted army of musical stretcher-cases. The description of the audience (many of them also probably on their last legs) starting their ovation before the end, as if urging exhausted runners on to the finishing tape, will stay with me for a very long time.

I also loved Fiona Maddocks’s long series of interviews with the composer Harrison Birtwistle (Harrison Birtwistle: Wild TracksFaber, £22.50), a book full of affection and sharp insights by an author both knowledgeable about and in love with her subject.

Read the other Spectator books of the year

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