Moscow Tour Report- Part 5: Impressions of Contemporary Moscow

While in Moscow, our musicians had a little bit of time to explore the city before their performances on Friday and Saturday nights. Below, violist Daniel Strba offers an interesting perspective of how Moscow has progressed since his last visit there, over 20 years ago.

Impressions of Contemporary Moscow
By: Daniel Strba

Red Square historical museum and Kremlin wall at night

Red Square Historical Museum and Kremlin wall at night

I was excited to learn that The Houston Symphony had been selected to perform two concerts in Moscow at the “Festival of the World’s Symphony Orchestras.” For me, this meant a return to Russia where I had performed with Sir Georg Solti and The Chicago Symphony in 1990 just prior to the collapse of the USSR. Back then, 22 years ago, things were bleak. Signs of the Soviet Union’s imminent downfall were everywhere. Restaurants were few and far between, and CSO was cautioned to eat only at the new Marriott hotel where we were staying. Shops had little inventory and Moscovites stood in blocks-­ long food lines. What a difference two decades has made!

I could not help being impressed by the changes the new oil wealth has brought the Russian people. Upscale designer shops like Prada and Armani flourish, and a plethora of ethnic restaurants line the once neglected streets. Moscow is a wild combination of crumbling Soviet-­era buildings and brand new sparkling glass skyscrapers. The constant rush-­hour traffic is not to be believed!

Moscow GUM and St. Basil's Cathedral

Moscow GUM and St. Basil's Cathedral

The orchestra had a free day on Thursday, so my colleagues Fay and Mark Shapiro and I trekked to the Novodevichy Cemetery, an exquisite sculpture garden where Russia’s elite artists and heroes are buried. The trip was a pilgrimage of sorts to the grave of Dmitri Shostakovitch (the HSO performed his 11th Symphony on Saturday night). Finding individual graves was a challenge because all of the headstones are distinguished in the Cyrillic alphabet. Aided by an English map, our hunt began. Our search was complicated because sections of the cemetery were marked, but the individual rows were not. This meant that we had to meticulously count each row to find our target. Eventually, we did find Shostakovitch’s grave along with many others including Serge Prokofiev, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Nikita Khrushchev, Mstislav Rostropovich, and David Oistrakh.
Bolshoi Theatre at night around 10 PM

Bolshoi Theatre at night around 10 PM

It was a whirlwind tour, and it’s sure good to be back in the U.S.A!

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