Before its astonishing 9 August 1942 performance, in the city to which it is dedicated, Shostakovich’s mighty Seventh Symphony actually received its world premiere in Kuybyshev with the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra on 5 March 1942.


It’s a sensational masterpiece and oft-recorded. But, what are the very best recordings of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad' ? Here are some to start with…

NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
Opus Kura OPK7050

A performance that Shostakovich is said to have felt was unsatisfactory, but an essential document in the work’s history: this was the performance that was broadcast across the US on 19 July 1942.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Bernstein
DG 477 7587

Bernstein conducts a riveting, utterly cinematic, no-holds-barred performance that captures in vivid details the extremities of violence and tenderness in Shostakovich’s most epic symphony.

St Petersburg Philharmonic/Yuri Temirkanov
Signum SIGCD194

Temirkanov’s orchestra is the one that Shostakovich knew and loved. And there’s a searing imagination as well as an indelible sense of connection and commitment here.

Russian National Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Pentatone PTC5186511

Järvi’s recent recording is one of the most powerful of recent performances, combining a meticulous ear for detail and colour with a thrilling realisation of the symphony’s dark drama and implacable intensity.

Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Mariinsky MAR0533


Gergiev brings his feverish, in-the-moment inspiration to this performance, but the work’s overall narrative never suffers, even at his broad speeds, and the final climax is a thrilling revelation of triumph wrought from tragedy.


Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.