In the 1780s the architect Giacomo Quarenghi constructed in the Catherine Park a Concert Hall that he described as “a hall for music with two cabinets and an open-air temple dedicated to the goddess Ceres”. Confirmation of the fact that the pavilion was conceived as a temple to the goddess of agriculture is the panel An Offering to Ceres in its large hall. It depicts a statue of the deity in the portico of a temple, with an altar set up before it. Originally this pavilion was called “the Temple of Friendship”, but after 1788 in accordance with Catherine II’s wishes it was referred to as the Music or Concert Hall.
The building displays austere, laconic architectural forms. The façade overlooking the pond is embellished with a four-column portico. On the other side the façade is treated as a ten-column rotunda covered with a low dome. The walls of the rotunda are decorated with five bas-reliefs on mythological subjects created by the sculptor Mikhail Kozlovsky. The central relief depicts the story of Orpheus; the others present allegorical female figures with attributes of the arts and musical instruments.
Construction of the pavilion lasted seven years. In contrast to the simple treatment of the exterior, the rooms inside are decorated in a rich and varied manner.
The interiors of the pavilion were finished in accordance with the canons of strict Classicism. The walls of the large hall are faced with artificial marble and decorated with Corinthian pilasters, sculptural medallions and painted panels. The decorative painting on the ceiling employs rectangular panels: one of them depicts Juno in a chariot, the other the Titan Cronus. The coving is adorned by rhombuses containing signs of the zodiac, the Sun and the Moon painted in the grisaille technique. Particularly valuable is the mosaic floor dating from the late second or early third century that was brought to Tsarskoe Selo from Rome in 1784. The black-and-white mosaic depicts an episode from the myth of the abduction of Europa by Zeus in the guise of a bull. The figures of the bull and the half-naked woman with a veil fluttering above her head stand out against the white background of the mosaic in the corners of which are images of sea monsters with fish tails. The composition is framed by a frieze featuring stylized lotus blossoms. Parts of the mosaic floor flanking the ancient composition were produced to Quarenghi’s drawing by Russian craftsmen.
In keeping with the architect’s conception twenty-eight marble busts, copies of ancient originals, were placed on pedestals in the large hall. They were lost during the war.
The décor of the Concert Hall’s eastern and western cabinets also employs ancient motifs: one of them is adorned with four bas-reliefs made by the Italian sculptor Concesio Albani – allegories of architecture, painting, sculpture and science; the other with painted panels bearing scenes of offerings. The floors in both rooms are made of marble slabs with ornamental Roman mosaic insets dating from around the turn of the first century A.D. The ceilings are painted with multicoloured ornament. The artists Valesini, Danilov, Christ, Bogdanov and Scotti worked on the painted decoration of the pavilion’s interior.
The now restored Concert Hall is justly considered one of the masterpieces of Russian park and garden architecture from the last decades of the eighteenth century.