With the nights drawing in, and Michaelmas term just around the corner, the summer holiday season is definitely coming to an end. However, today on MusiCB3 is a last hurrah for the vacation – I have just returned from an adventure to Moscow, so this week’s post, dear readers, will be a ‘what I did on my holidays’ post…
Moscow can be a very confusing place to arrive in if, like me, you speak no Russian. Luckily I had an excellent guide in my little sister, and so was all prepared to understand absolutely nothing and communicate with the world solely through her for the week. So it was a nice surprise to then realise that the 90s-ish-style music playing in the taxi on our way to Moscow from the airport had lyrics in English. At least I could follow some of what was on the radio! Apparently, a lot of Russian bands have sung both covers and original songs in English, and not only for Eurovision.
The next day we came across a much older style of music in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Whilst wandering around looking at the cathedral, we realised that in some partitioned-off room somewhere there was a christening going on, and although we couldn’t see anything we could still hear bits of the liturgy being chanted. The cathedral of today was finished only 16 years ago, and is built on the site of the original cathedral, which had been destroyed in 1931 on Stalin’s orders. The site was then used for the beginning of a Palace of the Soviets, and then a swimming pool, before the cathedral was re-built. The original cathedral was where Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was first performed.
One evening we went to a performance by the Russian National Ballet “Kostroma”. Big and showy and colourful, with some brilliant costumes, this show told stories of Russia through folk dance and ballet, and was a lot of fun!
A visit to the Tchaikovsky Museum was a thoroughly good idea, as it catered to English-speakers! It was under the aegis of the Glinka Museum, and seems to have started out as an exhibition which proved so popular that it became permanent one. One exhibit had a Cambridge connection – a photograph of Tchaikovsky wearing a Cambridge gown when he was awarded an honorary doctorate here in 1893. As the photo caption pointed out, Tchaikovsky seems generally to have approved of Cambridge. He wrote to a friend: “Cambridge, with its colleges resembling monasteries, its peculiarities of manners and customs (many of which date from medieval times), its buildings reminiscent of times long past, made a very favourable impression. It is pleasant to think of this now, but at the time it was very arduous and exhausting.”
Another museum we went to with musical connections was the Bulgakov Museum. This had fewer things in English, but was fascinating all the same. You go up a graffiti-ed staircase to the ‘haunted’ flat where Bulgakov set parts of The Master and Margarita, and when you get there you find a flat full of things from the novel, original drawings, clever little papier mache models of scenes from the book, and also a rather ghostly room with a piano in it. Open on the piano was a score of Gounod’s Faust, and all around the flat were piles of sheet music from pieces connected to The Master and Margarita.
One other musical encounter we had was in the metro. When one is used to the London tube, the metro stations in Moscow seem like little underground palaces ; however, one similarity to London is that you will often hear buskers. Though I have never seen a London busker playing a double electric balalaika with little bells on it to mimic a bell tower…
Our balalaika-playing friend was selling CDs, one of which may well appear in the Pendlebury catalogue in due course!