Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Russia Symphony Balakirev Borodin Rimsky-Korsakov Tchaikovsky Rubinstein Form

Major Advisor

Dr. Richard Bass

Associate Advisor

Dr. Peter Kaminsky

Associate Advisor

Dr. Alain Frogley

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


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.