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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Music Played the Original Way

Offering a rare chance to hear classical music from centuries past played and sung in the authentic style of its own day, musical ensembles from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk have come together for the Moskovskoye Deistvo festival running through Sept. 12. Enhancing the musical delights are the elegant surroundings of the palaces and mansions in which all of the festival's events are taking place.

Though dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin's birth, the festival's programs include music written over more than two centuries, up to and including Pushkin's own lifetime. Friday night, for example, at the Kremlin Patriarchy Palace, and again Saturday at the Opera House in Tsaritsyno, Insula Magica, a remarkable group from Novosibirsk, presents its "musical fantasy," entitled "Legends From the Deep Past," combining the poetry of Pushkin with works for voices and instruments by Monteverdi, Purcell and other composers of the 17th century.

The key word among participants in Moskovskoye Deistvo is "authenticity" and Insula Magica brings with it such long-discarded instruments as the rebec, tromba marina and crumhorn. Other groups use familiar instruments - violins, violas and cellos with gut strings, horns and trumpets without the usual valves. Singers add elaborate ornamentation to the written vocal line and performance practices dating from the Romantic era, such as heavy vibrato, are studiously avoided.

While the pursuit of authenticity in performing early music has a long history and now seems well rooted in the West, it is still something of a rarity in Russia. The playing of Bach, Handel or Vivaldi on modern instruments and in a heavy, Romantic style has largely disappeared from the concert halls of Western Europe and America.

Nevertheless, the authenticity movement is moving forward in Russia, and the festival offers Moscow's best opportunity to date to sample its progress. It's a chance to explore one of music's best kept secrets, the store of works written by Russian composers and by foreign composers active in Russia between the reign of Empress Anna in the 1730s and the emergence of Russia's first widely acknowledged composer, Mikhail Glinka, nearly 100 years later. The archives of St. Petersburg, where most of this music lies gathering dust, represents, in the words of Oleg Chernyshov, artistic director of the Moscow Conservatory Collegium of Early Music, "the world's greatest treasure of unknown musical masterpieces."

Music by forgotten Russians Yevstignei Fomin and Ivan Khandoshkin, as well as of several Italian composers who worked in St. Petersburg, forms the core of a concert by Moscow's Academy of Early Music, entitled "Music of the Russian Tsarist Court in the Time of Pushkin," to be heard this Sunday at Tsaritsyno and repeated Sept. 8 at the Kremlin Patriarchy Palace.

The Academy's director is Tatyana Grindenko, one of Russia's finest violinists and one of its true pioneers of early music performance in authentic style. On the evidence of recent concert hereabouts, Grindenko has now brought her Academy, founded nearly two decades ago, to a level of performance which rivals that of the very best early music ensembles in the West.

Another pioneering Moscow group, the Madrigal Ensemble, which traces its roots back as far as 1965, also performs festive music by Renaissance and Baroque composers of Italy in the Ballroom of the Kuskovo Estate this Sunday.

On Sept. 6, the children's choir of the Bolshoi Theater sings Pergolesi's lovely Stabat Mater and a Magnificat of Palestrina at the Kremlin Patriarchy Palace. Novaya Opera's superb young soprano Yana Ivanilova joins the Orpharion Ensemble at the Kremlin Armory on Sept. 7 in arias from operas by Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and Rossini.

St. Petersburg's Russian Ensemble of Early Music presents "Music of Pushkin's Youth" - a program of works by little-known composers of 200 years ago - on Sept. 9 at the Golitsyn Manor and again Sept. 10 at the Kremlin Patriarchy Palace. Last, but by no means least, is the Moscow Conservatory Collegium of Early Music, which last weekend opened Moskovskoye Deistvo with fine performances of the opera "La Clemenza di Tito" by the German composer Johann Hasse, a work heard in Moscow only at the coronation festivities for Empress Elizabeth in 1742. The group's program, "Music Idols of Russia," with music by Gluck, Mozart, Rossini and Bellini, can be heard Sept. 7 at the Golitsyn Manor and Sept. 11 at Tsaritsyno. The Collegium also concludes the festival Sept. 12 with a playing of Gluck's very rarely heard opera, "Le Cinesi."

See listings Page IX for the complete schedule of festival events. Tickets for each of the events may be purchased at the box office of its particular site. Ticket and other festival information can be obtained by calling 229-3739.