Obituary: Music historian and scholar Richard Taruskin, 77

Posted on: July 6, 2022

“Richard Taruskin, a music scholar and historian of wide influence and spectacular fecundity who wrote the gigantic ‘Oxford History of Western Music,’ died July 1 at a hospital in Oakland, Calif. He was 77,” writes Tim Page in Saturday’s (7/2) Washington Post. “The cause was esophageal cancer, said his wife, Cathy Roebuck Taruskin. Dr. Taruskin, a longtime professor of musicology at the University of California at Berkeley, was best known for his writings about Russian music and particularly about Igor Stravinsky…. His ‘Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works Through “Mavra” ’ (1996) combined in-depth technical analysis of the composer’s scores with an exhilarating overview of Russian musical life … Taruskin published his first book, ‘Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860s,’ in 1981…. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Taruskin became a contributor to the New York Times…. where he … became a figure of controversy…. Dr. Taruskin attacked composers Carl Orff, Arnold Schoenberg and Sergei Prokofiev as well as … Milton Babbitt, Donald Martino and Elliott Carter…. He [received] a master’s degree in 1968 and a doctorate in musicology in 1975 from Columbia, he taught in the university’s music department until 1987, when he joined Berkeley’s faculty…. Dr. Taruskin was said to have grown gentler in his later years and he befriended many young critics and scholars.”