Lecture 28

European Modernism


To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music we must break them.                                                                                                              —Nadia Boulanger


european modernism

In this lecture, we look principally at three composers, two Russians and one Hungarian. The Russian composers are Serge Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich; the Hungarian composer is Bela Bartok. Between the two Russians, we will look in greater depth at Shostakovich and his Symphony No. 5. The Bartok works we'll look at are the Concerto for Orchestra and the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

Topics covered:

  • european modernism
  • the arts in Soviet Russia
  • Serge Prokofiev
  • Dmitri Shostakovich and the bourgeois formalism
  • Symphony No. 5
  • Bela Bartok
  • Concerto for Orchestra and the Shostakovich connection
  • Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta 


  • understanding the conditions under which artists lived in soviet Russia
  • what is bourgeois formalism?
  • hearing the folk elements of Bartok's style
  • hearing new ways in which to make beautiful music
  • how do these musical styles differ from Schoenberg?


  • watch lecture 28 (in multiple parts for quicker download)
  • review previous chapters, as necessary
  • read textbook, Chapter 28 — sections on Prokofiev, Bartok 
  • As you are reading your textbook, go through the Listening Exercises in textbook sequence, listening to the

 examples provided.

  • regarding developing listening skills: you should be in the habit of developing your listening skills early in the game - the assignments will get more complex through the semester and you may find yourself unable to keep up. As simple as these early assignments may seem to some of you, they will help to keep you on the right track, and help you develop the skills required for a greater appreciation in listening to music, including the music that you listen to for your own enjoyment. Of course, those objectives are in total sync with the success you hope to have in this class. Remember that your ability to recognize the music on your CDs will be tested and will, of course, impact your grade. 

Audio / Video lecture

  • click lecture segments below in sequence
  • presented in several segments to reduce download time
  • total lecture time: approx. one hour 15 minutes (all segments included)
  • can be downloaded for portable media players by right clicking each segment link and choosing save option. (note: older Macs and Mac notebooks with single-button mice: control-click) 

Lecture 28.1 

European Modernism

Lecture 28.2 
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, IV


Lecture 28.3

Bela Bartok and the Concerto for Orchestra

Lecture 28.4 
Bartok Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta