Date of Completion
Russia Symphony Balakirev Borodin Rimsky-Korsakov Tchaikovsky Rubinstein Form
Dr. Richard Bass
Dr. Peter Kaminsky
Dr. Alain Frogley
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
For cultural and political reasons, acceptance of music as a serious art form and recognition of musicians in society were delayed until the nineteenth century. It was not until Anton Rubinstein founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory that music became a recognized profession. The conservatory bestowed a rank on musicians and improved the quality of musical education. However, the Russian Five (composers Mily Balakirev, Alexsandr Borodin, César Cui, Modest Musorgsky, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov) opposed Rubinstein’s traditional approach to music education, promoting instead nationalism that relied on folk music and themes to convey a distinctively Russian character.
The difference in philosophy of Rubinstein and the Five is reflected in the formal designs, large-scale tonal relationships, and harmonic practice that characterize their symphonies. Balakirev, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov were the only members of the Five to write symphonies, but those works, like Rubinstein’s, did not receive widespread recognition. Pytor Tchaikovsky's symphonies are included because he was influenced by both Rubinstein and Balakirev, being a graduate of the conservatory and later a student of Balakirev. Examining the structural components of the symphonies by these composers reveals their individual conservative and progressive tendencies and allows a comparison of their approaches.
Neither the conservative nor progressive side was victorious in the struggle over the direction of Russian symphonic music, since each tended to adopt rather extreme positions. Ultimately, however, the merging of conservative, progressive, cosmopolitan, and nationalistic elements in Tchaikovsky's symphonies solidified a Russian symphonic style that was held in high regard throughout Russia and Western Europe.
Wanner, Jennifer, "The Battle for the Russian Symphonic Style: An Exploration of Form, Harmony, and Tonal Relationships in the Symphonies of Balakirev, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rubinstein, and Tchaikovsky" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 597.