Richard Taruskin (born 2 April 1945, New York) is an American musicologist and critic who has written about the theory of performance, the 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. He played the viola da gamba with the Aulos Ensemble from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. Taruskin received his B.A. magna cum laude (1965), M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. in historical musicology (1976) from Columbia University. He is best known for his monumental survey of Western classical music, the 6 volume Oxford History of Western Music.
Taruskin's extensive 1996 study Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra shows that Igor Stravinsky drew more heavily on Russian folk material than has previously been recognized, and analyzes the historical trends that caused Stravinsky not to be forthcoming about some of these borrowings.
Taruskin has also written extensively for lay readers, including numerous articles in The New York Times, many of which have been collected in Text and Act (in which he is an influential critic of the premises of the "historically informed performance" movement in classical music), The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, and On Russian Music. His writings have frequently taken up social, cultural, and political issues in connection with music—for example, the question of censorship. A specific instance was the debate over John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer. (See, for example, “The Klinghoffer Controversy” in Thomas May, ed., The John Adams Reader (Amadeus Press, 2006), pp. 297–339; Taruskin’s original 2001 New York Times article is reprinted there and, with a lengthy postscript, in The Danger of Music.)
- Opera and Drama in Russia: As Preached and Practiced in the 1860s (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1981; republished, University of Rochester Press, 1993)
- Music in the Western World: A History in Documents compiled and edited by R. Taruskin and P. Weiss (Schirmer, 1984; 2nd ed., Thomson/Schirmer, 2008)
- Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (Princeton University Press, 1993)
- Text and Act (Oxford University Press, 1995)
- Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra, 2 vols. (University of California Press, 1996) (Kinkeldey winner, 1997)
- Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical essays (Princeton University Press, 1997)
- The Oxford History of Western Music (6 vols., Oxford University Press, 2005, 2009; 2nd ed., 5 vols., 2010) (Kinkeldey winner, 2006)
- The Danger of Music: And Other Anti-Utopian Essays (University of California Press, 2009)
- On Russian Music (University of California Press, 2009)
- S. Karlinsky, Freedom from Violence and Lies: Essays on Russian Poetry and Music, ed. R. P. Hughes, T. A. Koster, and R. Taruskin (Academic Studies Press, 2013)
- W. J. Allanbrook, The Secular Commedia: Comic Mimesis in Late Eighteenth-Century Music, ed. M. A. Smart and R. Taruskin (University of California Press, 2014)
- Russian Music at Home and Abroad: New Essays (University of California Press, 2016)
Awards and recognition
Taruskin has received various awards for his scholarship, including the Noah Greenberg Prize (1978) from the American Musicological Society, the Alfred Einstein Award (1980), the Dent Medal (1987), the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1988, 2005) and the 1997 and 2006 Kinkeldey Prizes from the American Musicological Society. On the faculty of Columbia University until 1986, he moved to California as a professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he held the Class of 1955 Chair. He retired from Berkeley at the end of 2014. In 2017 he was the recipient of the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (Music).
- Jerry McBride, Richard Taruskin
- Maddocks (2017). John Adams: ‘Trump is a sociopath – there’s no empathy, he’s a manipulator'
- Kyoto Prize 2017
- "A History of Western Music? Well, It's a Long Story" (brief interview with Taruskin by James Oestreich in the New York Times
- "Settling Scores": Lingua Franca's 2001 profile of Taruskin
- "The Musical Mystique," a 2007 article by Taruskin published in The New Republic and reprinted in The Danger of Music
- A 2014 profile of Taruskin by the San Francisco Chronicle prior to his retirement
- "Richard Taruskin and Classical Music: Good for the Jews", February 17, 2012