Richard Taruskin is an American musicologist, historian, and critic who has written about the theory of performance, Russian music, 15th-century music, 20th-century music, nationalism, the theory of modernism, and analysis. As a choral conductor, he directed the Columbia University Collegium Musicum and Cappella Nova. He played the viola da gamba with the Aulos Ensemble from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. Dr. Taruskin received his doctoral degree in historical musicology (1975) from Columbia University. He taught there from 1967 to 1986, when he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1997, he has been UC Berkeley’s Class of 1955 Professor of Music.
Dr. Taruskin has received various awards for his scholarship, including four from the American Musicological Society: the Noah Greenberg Award (1978), Alfred Einstein Award (1980), and Otto Kinkeldey Award (1997 and 2006). He was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1999 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. The Royal Musical Association of Great Britain awarded him the Dent Medal in 1987, and the Royal Philharmonic Society gave him its gold medal in 1997 for his two-volume monograph, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (1996), which shows the extent of Stravinsky’s Russian inheritance—something that the composer tried hard to minimize. It is one of a number of books by Dr. Taruskin about Russian music, including Mussorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1993) and Defining Russia Musically (1997), which deals more intensively and theoretically with issues of nationality and nationalism in music.
Dr. Taruskin has also written extensively about matters relating to musical performance; his essays on that subject have been collected in a volume titled Text and Act (1995). His textbook Music in the Western World: A History in Documents, coauthored with Piero Weiss, was first published in 1984 and later reissued in a new and updated edition in 2007. Dr. Taruskin’s most recent books are the six-volume The Oxford History of Western Music, on which he worked for 13 years before its publication in 2004, and two volumes of articles and essays written over the years for The New York Times, The New Republic, and other public outlets: The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays and On Russian Music (both 2009).
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