Richard Taruskin

Influential American musicologist and critic Richard Taruskin was born in New York on 2 April 1945. His mother was a piano teacher and his father was an amateur violinist. He learned the cello at school and studied at Columbia University.

He was on the faculty of Columbia University until 1986, directing the university's Collegium Musicum choir and playing viola da gamba with the Aulos Ensemble, then was professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley until retiring in 2014.

His many articles in The New York Times dealt with censorship and other cultural, political and social issues concerning music. Many of these articles are published in the collections Text and Act (Oxford University Press, 1995), The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays (University of California Press, 2008) and On Russian Music (University of California Press, 2008). He wrote about the opera The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams, and was influential in the historically informed performance movement.

Russian music was also a frequent subject. Taruskin's Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra (University of California Press, 1996) discusses Stravinsky's borrowings from Russian folk music, including why Stravinsky didn't mention some of them, and showing that these were more extensive than previously thought.

Taruskin's last publication was Cursed Question: On Music and Its Social Practices (University of California Press, 2020).

Richard Taruskin died from cancer of the oesophagus in hospital in Oakland, California on 1 July 2022, aged seventy-seven.


A selection of articles about Richard Taruskin

The Magic of Performance - Part II - On the Elusive Nature of the Nationalist Spirit in Music, by Andrew Schartmann

A Useful Survey - Thomas May's 'The John Adams Reader', reviewed by Mike Wheeler