Richard Taruskin (1945-2022)

Richard Taruskin, the eminent US musicologist known for his (literally) encyclopedic knowledge of European classical music and sharply phrased opinions, has died at 77.

Taruskin, a scholar of Russian music and viola da gamba player and chorusmaster in early music troupes in New York, spent most of his academic career at the University of California at Berkeley.

The author of a number of studies and essay collections, including the monumental “Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions” (1996), Taruskin was most widely known for writing the six-volume “Oxford History of Western Music,” a standard reference work since its publication in 2005. He also wrote for The New York Times, The New Republic and other mass media.

Known for his dust-ups with fellow musicologists, Taruskin was often characterized as a musical polemicist, with especially provocative views on the authenticity of historically informed performance practices and the sociopolitical role of composers, from Bach and Beethoven to Shostakovich and Prokofiev.

“Whether you judged him right or wrong, [Taruskin] made you feel that the art form truly mattered on the wider cultural stage,” Alex Ross, The New Yorker’s music critic, told William Robin in a Times obituary: