Magic in Moscow

March 15, 2013

Yes, that’s me standing in the Red Square in Moscow. And yes, Saint Basil’s Cathedral looks like a giant Carvel ice cream cake. It was certainly cold enough to stay frozen (see below)! My trip to Moscow was a great adventure, and I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.

Yes, this temperature is in ºF !

The purpose of my trip was a private performance, held in a bona-fide palace owned by the Russian Foreign Ministry. I was invited to perform at the 60th birthday of Yuri Bashmet – one of the world’s finest viola players. Also present were my dear friend Anne-Sophie Mutter, and renowned conductor Valery Gergiev (of the London Symphony Orchestra). The audience was mostly Russians and Germans, but this was an extremely cultured crowd, and I was able to perform in English with no interpreter.

Steve Cohen, Valery Gergiev (standing), with Yuri Bashmet and Anne-Sophie Mutter seated in front row


Here is the gorgeous room that I performed in. It was straight out of a fairy tale, or a lavish room in Versailles:


Several more views of my performance room:




Here is a nice photo after the show of me with Anne-Sophie and Yuri.

And a candid shot of us, cracking up at Yuri’s joke.

Yuri is a very big name in the classical music world, and since classical music has such widespread appeal in Russia, he is somewhat of a rock star. Just… not with rock music. In celebration of his 60th birthday, he was featured in a series of high profile concerts, including this one which was broadly promoted throughout Moscow:

I was told that President Vladimir Putin was invited to this concert, and also to my show, but he did not attend. There were some other very wealthy Russians there, with lots of bling.

After the concert, Yuri and his guests were brought to the Official Party House of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a palace built in 1893. The palace combines both Gothicism and Neo-Gothicism, and exemplifies what later became Russian Art Nouveau. The first owner of the house was millionaire and patron of the arts Savva Morozov.


An imposing iron gate barricaded the driveway from the street, and each guest needed to gain clearance with an official guard. I was asked for my passport to gain admittance.

Here’s the entrance hall:

And this has got to be the most luxurious greenroom I’ve ever been offered. It was paneled with mahogany. What a great place to relax before the show!

After the show I was invited to a huge dinner that started at 12 midnight! It went until 4am, but I left much earlier because of my flight schedule the next morning. Musicians know how to party! There was lots, and I mean LOTS of vodka consumed (it’s Russia, remember?), and everyone was tipsy, if not flat-out drunk before long.

I sat next to Anne-Sophie and Yuri, at the head of the table. Here’s a view of the massive spread.

Note that everyone had their own personal serving of Russian caviar, served in a carved wooden bear carafe:

Throughout the dinner, various members gave speeches praising Yuri and his accomplishments as a musician and humanitarian. I was honored, then, when Yuri stood up and gave a speech about me! He thanked me for flying from New York to Moscow for his birthday, and opined that my Chamber Magic show is “composed like a symphony.” Then he said a bunch of things in Russian that I didn’t understand. I was told later by a translator that he found inspiration in my work, and wished to share the emotions he felt that night with his own audiences.

Here’s the hotel I stayed at, the Ritz Carlton Moscow.

There was a Bentley parked out front, as the house car.

Fortunately I was within walking distance of the Kremlin, and my hosts had arranged a private tour.

Kremlin tour tickets

My guide, named Svetlana, took me to the Armory Chamber (my favorite spot on the tour, but also the one spot where they prohibit photography!) and many other churches and official buildings.

Although I couldn’t take photos in the Armory Chamber, here is a nice video that shows the types of artifacts on display, including lavishly ornate horse-drawn carriages, thrones, sceptres, Czar’s crowns, costumes, weapons, and more.

Here are a few photos I took during my Kremlin tour:

Later in the day, I took a stroll uptown to a famous supermarket that is a historic landmark. The interior of the supermarket is like a grand mansion.



Before long, I was back on a plane to New York City. Lufthansa Business Class – Moscow -> Frankfurt -> JFK

This made for good reading material on the plane – a new book of card tricks by Darwin Ortiz.

Oh, one more thing. Here’s my favorite souvenir from Russia. A fur and leather hat that is so warm, it’s like having a furnace parked on top of your head.