The Great Outdoors

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra offers a series of crowd-pleasing concerts under the open sky, while other ensembles play in historic estates throughout Moscow.

For the third summer in a row, the magnificent aristocratic estate of Arkhangelskoye, located northwest of Moscow about a dozen kilometers from the Moscow Ring Road, is hosting a series of outdoor concerts by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The MSO's concerts, performed in the enormous courtyard of the estate's palace, mark the revival of a musical tradition that occupied an important role in the life of Arkhangelskoye during the century prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.

On Saturday at 6 p.m. in the third of its four appearances at Arkhangelskoye this summer, the orchestra turns to the music of Broadway with a program of hit runes from shows such as "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Porgy and Bess." The conductor for the occasion is Charles Ansbacher, founder and music director of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and a frequent guest of the MSO over the past five seasons.

The final concert in the MSO series lakes place on July 2 and features the repeat of a program that brought cheers from a near-capacity crowd last summer: a medley of music from Soviet-era films and theater by composers Isaak Dunayevsky. Georgy Sviridov, Aram Khachaturian and Dmitry Shostakovich. On the podium will be MSO music director and principal conductor Vladimir Ziva.

Founded in 1989, the MSO enjoys the distinction of being the oldest privately funded orchestra in Russia. In the years since its establishment, it has come to rank among the best of the many symphonic ensembles on Moscow's crowded orchestral scene. During the regular season, tite orchestra plays a popular series of concerts in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. and it has also become known worldwide through its more than 50 recordings, some of which have been awarded important prizes.

There is much to enjoy on a summer visit to Arkhangelskoye besides the music of the MSO. Although the palace itself- begun in the 1780s and completed soon after its purchase in 1810 by the fabulously wealthy Prince Nikolai Yusupov - is still closed after some two decades of on-and-off restoration, the building's exterior now reflects its original splendor.

Surrounding the palace arc pavilions, monuments and statues erected by the Yusupov family; a theater built tor their company of serf actors and recently reopened after extensive repairs; and the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, a gem of 17th-century architecture that gave the estate its name. Despite the encroachment of a Soviet-era military sanatorium. Arkhangelskoye still retains much woodland and open space, as well as a lovely embankment along the Moscow River.

Other concerts, on a smaller scale, continue throughout the summer in the hall of the estate's Colonnade, a building completed in the early 20lh century that temporarily houses some of the extraordinary Yusupov art collection.

Music lovers суп also find much to enjoy at palaces within Moscow city limits. Through early September, various concerts will take place at Kuskovo. where music is played in the lavishly decorated White Hall; Ostankino, which boasts one of the world's few 18th-century theaters that have remained virtually unaltered up to the present day; and Catherine the Great's huge, unfinished palace at Tsaritsyno, where concerts take place in the elegant pseudo-Gothic Opera House, a building that was never intended or used for performing opera but built as a venue for the empress' formal receptions.

Raymond Stults, The Moscow Times, June 24-26, 2005