Photos: Classical Musicians in the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

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If the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics felt like a blockbuster movie version of Russian history – albeit with the darker episodes carefully edited out – the closing ceremony seemed more like an art-house flick: a tableau of Russian culture with plenty of classical music sprinkled in. The ceremony, which brought the 17-day games to an end, took place on Sunday night at the symbolic time of 20:14 in Sochi.

The splashiest musical moment came when Russian pianist Denis Matsuev emerged from a cloud of smoke to the crashing strains of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Soon, a flurry of dancers in white wigs began pushing other pianos about the stage, captured in overhead camera shots that evoked a Busby Berkeley-style set piece. 

Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

The sequence was reminiscent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, where pianist Lang Lang sat with a five-year-old girl at a white Steinway surrounded by dancers; here, three children peered on as Matsuev played. The 38-year-old pianist was a winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998.

The ceremony took a more surreal turn when a Marc Chagall painting was projected on stage and masked dancers began cavorting on stilts to the sounds of Tatiana Samouil, a St Petersburg-born violinist, and violist Yuri Bashmet. The fiddlers joined an unspecified orchestra in Alfred Schnittke’s Polka (Schnittke was also heard during the opening ceremony). Samouil, 39, has performed with Bashmet and his Soloists of Moscow Orchestra and is a first violinist in the Malibran Quartet.

Russian violinist Tatiana Samouil performs during the Closing Ceremony (DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images).

In the portion of the ceremony where Russia handed over the reins to the next Winter Olympics host, Pyeongchang, South Korea, the soundtrack shifted to an amalgam of Korean folk and pop styles. Here soprano Sumi Jo appeared with jazz singer Youn Sun Nah and a zither player in an ultra-polished arrangement of a traditional folk melody. There was also a bit of the Korean pianist Yang Bang-ean and K-pop star Lee Seung-cheol.

South Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah and soprano Jo Sumi perform during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The night's events also featured circus acrobats tumbling to Shostakovich’s Circus Polka; the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballet companies dancing to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (as part of a potted version of famous Ballet Russes productions); soprano Hibla Gerzmava singing on a fantasy boat; and Valery Gergiev conducting the much-heralded, 1000-voice children’s choir (seen below). The ceremony ended with a Tchaikovsky fireworks display, an appropriate send-off to an Olympics that got its share of the composer's music during figure-skating competitions.