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Shostakovich in Gohrisch

The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich stayed twice - in 1960 and 1972 - in the resort municipality Gohrisch in Saxon Switzerland. During his first stay he composed his eighth string quartet in C minor, op. 110. It is now considered one of his most important works, and it has been proven to be the only work Shostakovich composed outside the Soviet Union.

The reason for Shostakovich's first visit to Gohrisch was a stay in Dresden, where he was to work on the film "Five Days - Five Nights" with the director Lew Arnstam. The propaganda film - an East German-Soviet co-production - dealt with the evacuation of Dresden's art treasures by the Red Army to Moscow in 1945. Shostakovich was supposed to write the film music for this. For this reason, he retired to the resort municipality of Gohrisch from July 9 to 15, 1960. In the feudal guest house of the Council of Ministers of the GDR. There, however, he did not work on the film music, but composed his very personal eighth string quartet between July 12 and 14, 1960.

According to eyewitness reports, Shostakovich wrote the work under the beech tree by the small kidney-shaped pond in the inner courtyard of the building complex. His room was on the first floor of the main building, right next to the back stairwell. In the round restaurant pavilion with its filigree gallery, Shostakovich used to play on the grand piano every morning.

In May and June 1972, Shostakovich - after the first performance of his fifteenth symphony in East Berlin – again spent a few weeks with his young wife Irina in the Gohrisch guest house, which had meanwhile been expanded to include a new building. The conductor Kurt Sanderling, with whom he had been friends for decades and who was the Principal  Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden in the 1960s, also visited him there. Later Shostakovich told his Polish composer friend Krzysztof Meyer about this second stay in Saxon Switzerland, whose landscape he particularly liked.

Already after his first visit to Gohrisch on July 19, 1960 he had written to his friend Isaak Glikman: "I have returned from my trip to Dresden. I looked at the material for the film '5 days, 5 nights', made by L. Arnstam. I have to say that I liked a lot of things. That reveals the very kind soul of Ljolja. And that is the main meaning of this film. It was very well arranged for me to create a creative working atmosphere. I lived in Gohrisch near the little town of Königstein, 40 kilometers from Dresden. The area is incredibly beautiful. By the way, that’s the way it should be: the area is called 'Saxon Switzerland'. The creative working conditions have paid off: I composed my 8th string quartet there."