The new Centre

June 26th 2006

Paris, Monday June 26


It’s 10 o’clock, Monday morning and we’re running late, on our way to the new Shostakovich Centre. We search hastily for the right house and suddenly come across a wonderful florist’s shop. With all kind of flowers hanging in the window, I thought of a real city greenhouse lying between the grey stone buildings. This place reminds me of our trip in January, when we were looking for Ecole Beaux Arts. Yes, I’m sure we have been here before! One house later and we are standing in front a huge door – the door! How to get in? After a little research we’ll find a high and lonely button on the right side of the door. We push carefully and the huge door swings open automatically. Wow, such an entrance! In front of us appears a little courtyard and a small old Concierge house invites a quick perusal. The house on the right belongs to Nina Ricci. On the left, through the green tapestry of a climbing evergreen shrub, a happy face is smiling at us. This is Shostakovich’s new home! Emmanuel Utwiller and his wife Françoise invite us inside and the five of us (Howard Wilson and his two grandchildren, Egbert and me) enter the freshly-decorated Shostakovich Centre. Emmanuel proudly shows us the wonderful archive. We enjoy some coffee and delicious croissants.


DSCH J: Emmanuel, how did it all begin?


EU: At the age of twenty-two I heard Babi Yar for the first time. From that very moment, in 1981, I was captivated by Shostakovich’s music and started to collect everything I could lay my hands on. In 1985 the first Shostakovich newsletter was published. In 1989, Chant du Monde gave a reception at the Embassy. Madam Shostakovich was also invited and this was the first time I met her.


To our surprise my wife and I received an invitation to be the guests of Mrs Shostakovich in the USSR and following on from these meetings Madam Shostakovich told me of her wish to establish an archive in Paris. This would be a place where everything such as scores and recordings could be stored safely as well as what was by then my own extensive collection of Shostakovich material. It would be an archive where a team could work, a place that might serve as a meeting venue and also a publishing house (eg. scores of the DSCH publishers); a place also that would function as a link between the Shostakovich archive, run by M.Yakubov in Moscow, and Western Europe.


It was hard to believe that people were so interested. It took about 7 or 8 years before Madam Shostakovich found a suitable place. Gratefully, we accept the offer of the University Léonard De Vinci; we were offered a couple of rooms were everything could be stored and small recitals given. 1996 was the official year we moved in with the collection.


DSCH J: Why did you move again?


EU: After staying for ten years without rent at the University, Madam Shostakovich bought this place about 18 months ago. It’s very good to have your own entrance, although the safety in the university was very good.


It’s also nice to have an address so close to the heart of the city. It’s easy to reach by metro - line 4, St Germain des Prés and it’s in the neighbourhood of famous museums like the Louvre. We are located in the Centre of Art! Visitors won’t have any problem to find us.


DSCH J: When did you move!


EU: It took us 6 months of preparation, renovation and the necessary decoration and preparation of the different areas, including kitchen, toilets etc. We also needed to add storage facilities for the collection, including shelves for the scores and books.


Two weeks ago (June 2006) we finally moved. This summer we’ll be open for our guests. Don’t forget to call before you come.


Upcoming events in Paris are:
Ludmilla Berlinskaya in 25/9/06
The Louvre Katerina Ismailova in October
The Danel Quartet All String quartets in December (Salle Cortot)


Henny van der Groep


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