Pushkin's "Rebirth," Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, and the Art of Coded Protest

Open Access
Belknap, Celeste
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Music
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Thesis Supervisor
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Honors Advisor
  • Maureen Ann Carr, Faculty Reader
  • Shostakovich
  • Stalin
  • Pushkin
  • Soviet Orchestral Music
This thesis brings new insight to the long-standing academic debate over a possible anti-Stalinist dimension of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Chapter One traces Soviet musical culture from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 through the Great Purges of the late 1930s, providing context for the proposition that the work is not an authentic product of Socialist Realism. In Chapter Two, poetic analysis of Alexander Pushkin’s lyric poem “Rebirth,” and an aesthetic and theoretical analysis of stylistic parallels between Shostakovich’s setting of “Rebirth” and the finale of his Fifth Symphony, support the assertion that melodic and harmonic content bear extra-musical meaning that amounts to a coded protest against the Stalinist regime. Shostakovich’s tactics of artistic concealment allowed the protest to pass censors undetected, but to an informed listener, as Pushkin’s poem suggests, the original work will reveal itself in time.