Metro: Mayakovskaya, Tverskaya
Address: Triumfalnaya square, 4/31
Ticket office: 9 AM through 10 PM
Tchaikovsky Concert Hall is more than 70 years old. Its building, on Triumphal Square, at the intersection of Tverskaya Street and the Garden Ring, was constructed on the site occupied at the beginning of the 20th century by the famous Bouffe-Miniature Theater of Charles Aumon, then by a theater known as Zon and after the Bolshevik Revolution by the Theater of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Opposite it was one of Moscow’s first cinemas, the House of Khanzhonkov (in later times, the Moskva cinema), and next door, where the Theater Satiry stands today, was the popular circus of the Nikitin brothers and later the Music Hall.
The Meyerhold Era
In 1922, the old
building was turned over to the Meyerhold Theater (the “TIM”) and for ten years
was home to productions by the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold. In 1932, the TIM
moved to the premises now occupied by the Yermolova Theater, while on Triumphal
Square there began serious rebuilding and
reconstruction in accordance with the concepts of the director. Meyerhold
wanted to construct a transformable stage of an unprecedented kind in which
changes of scene could be made with the speed of lightning. A principal goal
was to do away with the “footlight effect” and erase the boundary between
actors and audience. The theatrical arena was to consist of two circular
platforms capable of revolving and of being raised and lowered – a large one (the
present stage) and a small one (today’s parterre) -- thereby allowing the
action to move from one locale to another.
Nothing was to be allowed to hinder contact with the audience, even an orchestra. There was to be no orchestra pit. The musicians were to be placed in the second and third tiers. A ceiling of milky white glass was to permit daylight to enter. In the place where an organ would usually be located, there were to be doors to the dressing rooms, with the actors entering directly from them to the stage. The monumentalism of the era found expression in plans for a passageway through the hall for automobiles and crowds of demonstrators. For performances without an intermission, it was proposed beverages be served and smoking allowed. A person was not supposed to suffer discomfort while giving his attention to new forms of art.
The architecture of the hall was complimented by the composition and details of the foyer – the lobbies, the winter garden with its fountain, the staircases of white marble and black labradorite and the circular buffet on the first floor. And though the tragic events at the 1930s put an end to the creative plans of Meyerhold – he was arrested in 1939 and executed in February 1940 – much of what arose from his imagination remains alive today. Meyerhold and his team of architects – Alexei Shchusev, Mikhail Barkhin and Sergei Vakhtangov (son of the famed actor and director Yevgeny Vakhtangov) -- had succeeded by 1938 in constructing the shell of the building in brick and concrete. Yet to be completed were its decoration and façade.
After Meyerhold’s theater was closed, the unfinished building was transformed into a concert hall. The interior was completed in 1940 and the hall, named in honor of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, was opened on October 12 of that year with a gala concert honoring the 100th anniversary of the great composer’s birth.
In the construction of the hall, much remained of the original project. One may say that the way it appears today is due in no small measure to Meyerhold and his ideas. In particular, Meyerhold’s concept took as its inspiration the theaters of Ancient Greece, in which the stage “embraced” the audience on three sides and the public was seated in an amphitheater, which ensured a superb view of the stage.
In 1938, the Metro station “Mayakovskaya” was opened in the northeast corner of the building. It received worldwide recognition and its architectural design was awarded a Grand Prize at the New York World’s Fair. Since the 1980s, the station has been classified as an architectural monument and since 2001 it has been included in the list of especially valuable historical and cultural objects.
The First Sounds of Music
Tchaikovsky Hall enjoyed success from its very first days. At its opening, the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR, led by Alexander Gauk and Konstantin Ivanov, performed and accompanied symphonic and vocal works by Tchaikovsky. Among the musicians who appeared during the hall’s first season were Nikolai Golovanov, Alexander Melik-Pashayev, Yevgeny Mravinsky, Natan Rakhlin, Konstantin Igumov, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Emil Gilels, Yakov Fliyer, Yakov Zak, David Oistrakh, Svyatoslav Knushevitsky, Maria Maksakova, Sergei Lemeshev and Ivan Kozlovsky. A concert performance of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio was presented, as well as an evening of works by Sergei Prokofiev. Also taking the stage, among others, were the Igor Moiseyev Folk Dance Ensemble, the Pyatnitsky Choir and the Orchestra of Russian Folk Instruments under the direction of Nikolai Osipov.
A venerable organ made by the E. F. Walker firm of Ludwigsburg, Germany, was installed in the hall. Previously, from 1839, the organ had stood in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on the Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg and, in the 1860s, had been played by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
The War Years
At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, many musicians were called up to serve in the army. Others chose to serve voluntarily. Those who remained in Moscow became members of the frontline concert brigade. In the autumn of 1941, an anti-aircraft gun was placed on the roof of Tchaikovsky Hall.
Nevertheless, concert activity continued. In 1941-42, daytime concerts took place in the still undamaged building and a concert was performed on the platform of the “Mayakovskaya” Metro station at ceremonies in celebration of the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution. During the war years, some 1,500 concerts took place at Tchaikovsky Hall. Among them were appearances by the Orchestra of Russian Folk Instruments, the Igor Moiseyev Folk Dance Ensemble, the Pyatnitsky Choir, the Aleksandrov Song and Dance Ensemble and the Sveshnikov Choir. There were even evenings of ballet as well.
The Postwar Decades
Following the war, Tchaikovsky Hall was gradually transformed into a multi-functional concert venue. Performances in concert form of Prokofiev’s War and Peace and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly alternated with piano recitals by Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. Premieres were given of works by Soviet composers, many with participation of the composers themselves. “Pushkin Readings” took place, as did celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the funding of Moscow. The hall played host to performances by numerous choral and folk dance ensembles, ballet soloists and gala evenings with the best of Moscow’s theaters and such beloved actresses as Lyubov Orlova and Vera Maretskaya and masters of variety theater like Lidia Ruslanova, Klavdia Shulzhenko and Arkady Raykin. Evenachesschampionshipwasheldthere. In 1947, the hall was used as a location for the film “The First Glove.”
A number of superb ensembles were formed during the postwar years, including the Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the Borodin String Quartet. The year 1965 was marked by the appearance of Madrigal, the country’s first baroque ensemble.
In 1950, the hall was decorated with the coat of arms of the USSR and the building itself was transferred to the management of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.
In 1959, a new organ, constructed by the Czechoslovak firm of Rieger-Kloss, was installed in the hall. Organ concerts still regularly take place and the organ itself is considered to be one of the finest in Russia.
Since 1962, the hall has been a principal venue of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Dmitry Shostakovich International String Quartet Competition took place there in 1999 and 2004 and the Yury Bashmet International Viola Competition in 2006.
The New Century
The beginning of the third millennium brought with it renewal and restoration of the hall, above all in respect of its acoustics, the most important requirement for high-quality performance and perception of classical music. New seats were installed and the floor restored. An idea put forward by Meyerhold was resurrected, namely, that of a dismountable parterre, which allows it to be used for chamber concerts and as a place for the orchestra in staged performances of opera. Corrections were made to the sound with the installation of acoustic panels, as well as of an electronic system for correcting acoustic parameters. The electronic system is the first of its kind in Russia and has provided Tchaikovsky Hall with acoustics that rank among the finest to found in any hall in Russia. Moreover, the system allows correction of the acoustics according to the requirements of different types of music, whether it be symphonic, vocal, chamber, organ or some other musical genre.
A New Hall
During the season of 2007-2008, the Moscow Philharmonic Society opened a 98-seat Chamber Hall. There reigns the spirit of discovery and experimentation, with performances of early and contemporary music, encounters with composers and literary evenings. The hall also serves to help launch the careers of young soloists.
The year 2008 marked a critical turning point in the history of Tchaikovsky Hall. Work began on restoring it to its original appearance, taking into account modern requirements in the construction and restoration of concert halls. In the course of restoration, the original floor of the entrance foyer, made of poured concrete with bits of marble, was uncovered. The distinctive feature of the floor is its rays of color extending from one column to another. In addition, the columns of the foyer were restored, as well as the portals, lamps and entire lighting system, and superfluous partitions were removed, allowing one to see the foyer’s original architecture. Also restored were the mirrored columns and the banquettes that served as an integral part of the foyer’s decoration. Glass doors, in no way visually detracting from the architectural arrangement of the foyer, were installed in replacement of the former heavy wooden doors. The bust of Tchaikovsky was returned to its original location. In carrying out the work, the management of the Philharmonic Society and the restorers received important help from members of the public who had preserved photographs and descriptions of the historical appearance of the building and the hall. The work of restoration is due to continue in the future.
For generations of Muscovites, Tchaikovsky Hall has been a part of their very lives. In carrying out restoration work and improvement of the hall’s acoustics, the Moscow Philharmonic Society has paid its respects to the past and looks forward to the future -- to the future of music and to the future of each and every listener.