Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Committee Member

Taras Krysa

Second Committee Member

Anthony Barone

Third Committee Member

Janis McKay

Fourth Committee Member

Marina Sturm

Fifth Committee Member

Clarence Gilyard

Number of Pages



In the early1940s, Shostakovich was exposed to much more Jewish culture than the average Soviet citizen. As news of the increasing European genocide and persecution of Jewish people reached Shostakovich, he was compelled to speak for the Jewish people whose voice was repressed by the ever-growing tyranny of Stalinist Russia.

After the Soviet Union’s still fresh victory over the Third Reich, Shostakovich was expected to produce a grandiose symphony to celebrate and exalt the Soviet people. With his Ninth Symphony, Shostakovich challenged the notion of praising the Soviet Union for its military victory, instead mocking the anti-Semitic martial state of Stalinist Soviet Union and using the platform of a Ninth Symphony to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory of the Great Patriotic War to be a voice for prosecuted Jewish people within the Soviet Union.

The altered E Phrygian scale, known as the freygish scale in Hebrew and klezmer music, is one of the most distinctive and idiomatic Jewish elements in music. If the E phrygian modal element is interpreted as ‘Jewishness,’ its foreignness to the heroic key of E-flat (Russia’s victory), and its consistent role as a catalyst for the persistent and increasingly aggressive militaristic reaction of the secondary theme result in clear processes in the first movement. The secondary theme becomes increasingly violent throughout the Allegro, later reappears injured, truncated, exhausted, repeatedly interrupted and finally brings the recapitulation to an aggressive close.

The Largo stands as the key to interpreting the work as a whole. The strained cantorial male voice represented by the bassoon sings the mourners kaddish in reaction to strong, united military violence as the standstill ensemble is reluctantly lead into a happier dance-like finale, a freylach spinning out of control and into madness.

Shostakovich’s Ninth was a critical mirror held up to Stalin’s Russia. Much of the published analyses regarding Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony view the piece simply as a musical bras d’honneur to Stalin and his cronies. This symphony contains musical allusions to multiple aspects of Shostakovich’s immediate life in Russia: military themes becoming increasingly aggressive, Jewish musical inflections serving as a catalyst for violent reactions, ghostly references to Tchaikovsky, and a reference to Mussorgsky’s Catacombs movement from his Pictures at an Exhibition as an introduction to a lengthy and dark Jewish lament for those who have died under the tyranny of others. By understanding the cultural and sociopolitical climate in which Shostakovich worked, we can better understand his music as both a product of his time and as a subversive voice in the arts of the Soviet Union.


9; Analysis; Jewish; Shostakovich; Stalin; Symphony



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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