If you’ve been to Moscow’s latest park, Zaryadye, or even seen it from across the river, you probably marveled at the giant tortoise-shell shaped glass structure that dominates the eastern side of the space. You might have even wandered under the half of it that covers the landscaped semi-enclosed greenhouse, whose botanical tenants require protection from the harsher days of Moscow’s winters. The other half forms the roof of what will soon be Moscow’s newest concert hall, set to have its triumphal opening on September 8 with an invitation-only concert by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra.
A hall for the 21st century
Like Zaryadye itself, this shining, modern concert hall was designed to show that Moscow not only has moved into the 21st century, but that it is on par with Western Europe. The general director of the hall, Olga Zhukova, told The Moscow Times that “it’s an international hall, like the Elbphilharmonie, like the Paris Philharmonie.” Those two halls, in Hamburg, Germany and the French capital, both opened in the last three years with lots of media coverage from the international press. The Elbphilharmonie, which dominates the city’s waterfront, aims to be as much of an icon for Hamburg as the Guggenheim is for Bilbao, or the Opera House is for Sydney.
The Zaryadye Concert Hall, designed by the Moscow-based “Reserve” design firm and Moscow’s chief architect Sergei Kuznetsov, does not have such a commanding presence as its European counterparts with its entrance facing the northeast corner of the park, somewhat hidden behind the giant greenhouse-hill. With the other dazzling attractions in the park, including a triangular “bridge” hovering over the Moscow river and a giant open amphitheater, the hall could easily be passed by unnoticed.
Inside, the hall is sleek and modern, if also somewhat subdued, featuring swooping lines, recessed lighting and cushy seats that recline slightly when you sit down. Taking a cue from the Paris and Hamburg halls, rather than having a stage in front, Zaryadye has its seats surrounding the stage, which allows viewers to be closer to the performers. It feels beguilingly intimate for a venue with a capacity for an audience of 1,560.