The Great Hall of the State Kremlin Palace

The Great Hall of the State Kremlin Palace is the main stage of Russia, one of the best and most prestigious theatrical and concert venues in the world.
The calling card of the Great Hall is large-scale musical shows, performances of A-list celebrities, ballet performances, film premieres and circus performances. Also worth noting are concert programs dedicated to various memorable, historical and anniversary dates, various days commemorating people and professions that have made significant contributions to the spiritual authority and greatness of Russia. During the past five decades, the creative performances on the main stage of the country wrote many brilliant and unforgettable pages in the cultural history of Russian art. And the technical reconstruction of the Palace made the stage an attractive place for the most famous and popular world stars. The hall can accommodate almost 6,000 spectators and is equipped with a sound system corresponding to the world's best state-of-the-art standards, and also the most advanced lighting equipment. That is why the Great Hall of the State Kremlin Palace hosts performances of the world's leading musicians, who generally have extremely high demands when it comes to the acoustic qualities.

The State Kremlin Palace, located in the heart of the capital city of Russia, within the walls of the ancient Moscow Kremlin, was completed in 1961, construction work taking just 16 months (a very short period for those times) with the active support of Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The selection of the place for the construction of the Palace was a task of particular importance. The location of this monumental building had to reflect its important social and political role. The construction of the Palace on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin, a place sacred to the Russian people, met these high demands to the fullest extent. The Moscow Kremlin is not only an outstanding historical and architectural monument of the past, but, above all else, the living heart of the capital city, the seat of the country's highest powers. This was the place chosen for the realization of this idea – the Palace construction. Afterwards, a closed competition was held for the creation of the building’s design. Mikhail Posokhin's concept was chosen from among twelve proposed design options. Subsequently, Posokhin was selected to head the team of architects. At that time, this outstanding architect, winner of the Lenin Prize for his design of the Kremlin Palace, was the Chief Architect of Moscow and the head of the city’s Main Architectural Planning Department.
The team included architects A. A. Mndoyants, E. N. Stamo, P. P. Steller, N. M. Shchepetilnikov; engineers G. N. Lvov, A. N. Kondratyev, S. Y. Shkolnikov, T. A. Melik-Arakelyan, and many others, were later also awarded the Lenin Prize for the project. At the design stage, the building was divided into three main components, each of which was developed by a separate group of architects. The hall was created by E. N. Stamo and his team. The lobby was designed by P. P. Steller, and the facades were developed by a group under the leadership of A. A. Mndoyants. At the stage of detailed development of the project, the number of construction zones became significantly greater. The «closed» government part of the building was created by KGB architect G. V. Makarevich. The Winter Garden was designed by K. Zakaryan. The facade facing the Terem Palace was created by V. Loktev.
The original version of the hall was designed to seat 4,000 people. As the project was being developed, it was decided to increase the scale of the Kremlin Palace. Some lay the «blame» for this on Chinese architects. In 1959, China was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the formation of the People's Republic of China, and in connection with this, the Chinese decided to build ten large buildings in Beijing, including the Great Hall of the People with its 10,000 seats and a colossal banquet hall. Nikita Khrushchev, who attended the celebrations as a guest, was astonished by this structure and told M. V. Posokhin about it.
A new stage of the work then began. It was decided not only to increase the auditorium to 6,000 seats, but, most importantly, to design a banquet hall with maximum capacity. In order to become acquainted with foreign experience of constructing such buildings, a group of principal architects was sent to West Germany and the Unites States. Many ideas for architectural elements were borrowed from abroad, in particular, the interior decorations of the UN Conference Center in New York, clad with fashionable at the time wooden panels, was essentially duplicated in the Kremlin. A less representative delegation was sent to Beijing, to study the local experience of designing a banquet hall. The building started to rise. Another level was added from the side of the Kremlin Arsenal, and several additional floors were built below the ground, to accommodate the larger cloakrooms for spectators. It was eventually decided to place the banquet hall in the top part of the building, directly above the auditorium.
The architectural design of the facades entailed many debates as well. Many options were considered: from almost fully closed with arcades to absolutely transparent. This is how the now well-known outline profile of the Kremlin Palace was formed – stage-by-stage. Simple, geometrically clean and clear architectural forms determined the solemn noble looks of the interiors of the Palace. Stately and sober decor, so typical of ancient Russian architecture, made it possible for the Palace to perfectly fit into the ensemble of buildings already in the Moscow Kremlin, in which each century has left its unique features, set in white stone. By the summer of 1961, the colossal building of the Kremlin Palace was completed and decorated with white Ural marble, golden anodized aluminum and glass from the outside, and red Karbakhtin granite, Koelga marble and veiny Baku tuff from the inside. Ash, oak, beech, Pacific walnut and hornbeam wood were used for decoration of walls and parquet floors.
The frieze, with images of state emblems made from multi-colored smalt was created based on sketches and under the guidance of the famous artist A. A. Deyneka. The curtain, a set of decorative panels made from thin embossed metal sheets, was created by masters of the Latvian Art Foundation under the direction of H. M. Rysin according to a sketch by Professor A. A. Mylnikov.
At the banquet dedicated to the completion of the Palace of Congresses, Posokhin named Nikita Khrushchev the first architect of this massive project, and the Kremlin Palace «The Child of Khrushchev's Thaw». On the memorable day of the opening of the Palace, on October 17, 1961, the spectators were presented with a festive concert program, which included a fragment of the «Swan Lake» ballet and performances by master entertainers of various arts.
Since the first days of its operation as a theater and concert venue, the Kremlin Palace was placed at the disposal of the Academic Bolshoi Theater of the USSR, as its second stage. For many decades, the Kremlin Palace has hosted opera and ballet performances of its current repertoire, and premieres of the Bolshoi Theater, with the participation of its distinguished lead singers and orchestra. Built primarily for public social and political events, the Kremlin Palace also became the main venue for meetings of the Communist Party and Soviet Trade Unions in the 1960s to 1980s. This is where 22nd to 27th Congresses of the Communist Party were held. In addition, the stage of the Palace saw performances of legendary singing and dancing groups, such as the Igor Moiseyev's State Academic Folk Dance Ensemble, A. V. Alexandrov ‘Twice Red-Banner’ Song and Dance Ensemble of the Russian Army (Red Army Choir), M. E. Pyatnitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir, Beryozka Folk Dance Ensemble, and many others. The stage of the Kremlin Palace remembers the virtuoso dances of Olga Lepeshinskaya, Maya Plisetskaya, Natalia Bessmertnova, Ekaterina Maximova, Lyudmila Semenyaka, Maris Liepa, Vladimir Vasilyev, Mikhail Lavrovsky; unique voices of renowned singers of the Bolshoy Opera: Galina Vishnevskaya, Elena Obraztsova, Tamara Milashkina, Irina Arkhipova, Tamara Sinyavskaya, Bella Rudenko, Makvala Kasrashvili, Zurab Sotkilava, Vladislav Piavko, Alexander Vedernikov, and others. Many historical and memorable events have taken place in the Palace. This is where the first Congresses of People's Deputies were held, when the young Russian democracy formed in furious struggles. This very stage was where the First President of independent Russia took his oath of office. In 1992, by a presidential decree, the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (KPC) was renamed as the State Kremlin Palace (SKP). At the moment, the Kremlin Palace is managed by the Administrative Department of the President of the Russian Federation.
Today, the auditorium of the Kremlin Palace is one of the best in the world. After a comprehensive modernization of its sound and lighting equipment in 2013, the auditorium is keeping up, according to reputable experts, with the global highest levels, such as seen in the renowned venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and Irving Plaza, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Olympia in Paris, the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Stravinski Auditorium in Montreux.

© International Rostropovich Festival “Mstislav Rostropovich Week”, 2010 — 2019