Genius loci/A locus pro genio
The Spirit of Place/A Place of Spirit
Space has a character of its own, while the spirit of place expresses its identity.
In the spring of 1962, Dmitri Shostakovich moved to a new apartment in a newly built block in the building that housed the USSR Union of Composers at 8/10 Nezhdanova Street (it was renamed Bryusov Lane in 1992), building 2, apartment 23. This was the composer’s third and last address in Moscow. Dmitri Dmitriyevich lived there for almost thirteen years until his death in 1975.
The unusual double numbering of the building returns us to Moscow of the past. There had been two buildings at the site where the Uspensky gully and Bryusov settlement used to be: one of them was the building that housed the boarding school of the Terlikov brothers in 1814-1818 and the other was a residential building, erected in 1904 by architect Nikita Zelenin. In 1953-1956, the All-Union House of Composers (now the Moscow House of the Russian Union of Composers) and a residential building belonging to the Moscow Conservatory Pedagogue housing cooperative, designed by well-known Soviet architect Isidor Marcuse, took the place of the demolished buildings. A small Nezhdanova Street, located in a quiet corner in the centre of Moscow near noisy Tverskaya and Bolshaya Nikitskaya highways, is well known for the prominent theatre figures and actors, as well as artists of the Bolshoi Theatre who used to live there. They included Ivan Bersenev, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Sofya Giatsyntova, Yekaterina Geltser, Nadezhda Obukhova, Mariya Maksakova, Antonina Nezhdanova, Nikolay Golovanov, Aleksandr Pirogov and many others.
The appearance of the blocks at 8/10 Nezhdanova Street brought this quiet corner of Moscow to life, now from its windows spilled an endless stream of music. It is no coincidence that Muscovites called the legendary residential building for composers and musicians “The House of a Hundred Pianos”. Aram Khachaturian, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Arno Babadzhanian, Arkadi Ostrovsky, Serafim Tulikov, Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya, Klavdi Ptitsa and many other famous composers, performers and musicians lived there. At the beginning of the 1960s, the Executive Board of the USSR Union of Composers received permission to add four more floors to the House of Composers (building 2). Even before construction was over, the Board had allotted apartment No. 23 on the sixth floor to composer Dmitri Shostakovich. The three-room apartment he had been living in at 37/45 Mozhaiskoye Shosse (now Kutuzovsky Prospekt) had long become too small for the growing Shostakovich family—the composer’s daughter Galina, along with her husband and children, also lived there. There were changes in the composer’s personal life, too. In 1962, he married Irina Antonovna Supinskaya, who worked as a literary editor at the Sovetsky kompozitor publishing house. They met while working together on publication of the score of Shostakovich’s operetta Moscow-Cheryomushki. In letters to friends Shostakovich wrote: “An event of extreme importance has occurred in my life... My wife’s name is Irina Antonovna. ...She is a lovely, intelligent, down-to-earth and attractive woman. Life has been very good to me.” The composer’s demanding creative work and his diverse public activities, including deputy duties (since the 1960s Dmitri Shostakovich had been repeatedly elected as deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR), urgently required that he have new living arrangements.
Shostakovich did not ask the authorities for a new apartment himself. A close friend of the Shostakovich family, Zinaida Gayamova, secretary of the USSR Union of Composers and State Prize Committee, who was the composer’s assistant in his public and deputy activities at the time, drew the USSR Union of Composers’ attention to the composer’s unsatisfactory living conditions. Soon thereafter, even before building was complete, Shostakovich was allotted a five-room apartment in the new block of the All-Union House of Composers, the layout and furnishing of which were left to his own discretion. However, Dmitri Shostakovich did not make any special demands regarding the outfitting of his new apartment; he was only extremely happy with its location. Its close proximity to the Conservatory, the Philharmonic, and the capital’s main concert and performance stages made it very convenient and saved the composer time for engaging in his creative work. Later, due to the composer’s progressing illness, the main disadvantage of his new home was the steep stairway leading from the building’s entrance to the elevator. The designers of “The House of a Hundred Pianos” had clearly made a grave error in judgment when they installed just one elevator with a small cramped cubicle and failed to provide a second service elevator, since every new resident moved in with a piano at the very least!
The Board of the RSFSR Union of Composers and Dmitri Shostakovich’s office, who was First Secretary of the RSFSR Union of Composers from 1961 to 1968, were located on the third floor of the same building. Every Thursday, the composer received visitors in his office, refusing to delegate their affairs to assistants. “That is impossible. After all, it is me they have come to see.” It was also important that he have easy access to his suburban house, where he spent a lot of time, both in winter and summer. In 1961, Shostakovich gave his dacha in Bolshevo near Moscow, which he had been allotted in the late 1940s on Stalin’s personal orders, to the state and bought a house in the village of Zhukovka in the Odintsovo District. Dacha No. 5, set in a picturesque grove of birches and fir trees, was located on an unnamed street that Shostakovich teasingly called Dollezhalevka after his neighbour and friend, Academician Nikolay Dollezhal.
In the autumn of 1962, Shostakovich held a housewarming party, to which he invited his friends, pupils and fellow musicians. He moved into the apartment on Nezhdanova Street with his wife Irina Antonovna, his son Maxim and his wife, and housekeeper Mariya Dmitriyevna Kozhunova, who had been living with the Shostakovich family for many years. Irina Antonovna took care of all the arrangements in the new home. She ordered shelves for the library and bought furniture and kitchenware. Wall bars for therapeutic gymnastic exercises, recommended by Gavriil Ilizarov, an orthopedic surgeon, were made and installed in Shostakovich’s study.
A tape recorder was purchased so that Dmitri Dmitriyevich could listen to his music at home and hold rehearsals with the first performers of his new compositions. Irina Antonovna not only recorded performances of the composer’s works at home, but also at rehearsals in concert halls and theatres.
The Shostakoviches set up the dining room in the room nearest the front door, while the study and bedroom were located in the rear of the apartment. Later the apartment was remodelled—the side rooms were turned into a spacious study that held two pianos, the dining room was moved to the room near the bedroom and in its place a reception room was set up. It was large enough to hold the composer’s extensive music library. Dmitri Dmitriyevich received visitors there, including ordinary citizens who came to make requests of Shostakovich the deputy. Three rooms—the reception room, dining room and study—remain to this day. Even the colour of the walls is the same as it was during the composer’s lifetime. His favourite things, household items, furniture, books, sheet music and grand pianos all remind us of the composer and emanate his invisible presence.