We had a few hours before the concert to walk around Moscow and Red Square which was only a few blocks away from our hotel. As we began walking, we realized that many of the streets were closed for the holidays. The streets in Moscow are so wide, 8-10 lanes, that you have to go underground in order to cross them.
Security was tight and many of the entrances/exits had been blocked off so the police could manage the flow of people. At first it seemed we might be trapped, but we eventually found our way through the maze and into Red Square.
Coming into the Russia, we had been told about the Eastern Orthodox Easter Festival; what we didn’t know, however, was that May 9 is “Victory Day,” a huge national holiday celebrating the end of World War II. The Square was decorated for the parade earlier that day with large banners covering buildings throughout the square. It was a festive atmosphere with people singing and celebrating on the square. The crowds would ebb and flow as people paused to sing along, and then went on their way.
Eventually we looped around back to the hotel where we were sent directly to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory for the Mariinsky orchestra concert. It was a beautiful concert. The Gavrilin War Letters included a full choir, boys choir, and soloists. Denis Matsuev performed the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with ease, and was convinced to perform an encore before the end of the first half. They ended the concert with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, playing with immense passion and clarity. Matt Honegger put it the best when he said, “It feels unreal to be sitting here in this hall at the conservatory where Tchaikovsky attended, listening to his music and looking up at his portrait on the wall.”