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Richard Taruskin, a music scholar and historian of large affect and spectacular fecundity who wrote the big “Oxford Historical past of Western Music,” died July 1 at a hospital in Oakland, Calif. He was 77.

The trigger was esophageal most cancers, stated his spouse, Cathy Roebuck Taruskin.

Dr. Taruskin, a longtime professor of musicology on the College of California at Berkeley, was greatest identified for his writings about Russian music and significantly about Igor Stravinsky, whom he honored. His “Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works By means of ‘Mavra’ ” (1996) mixed in-depth technical evaluation of the composer’s scores with an exhilarating overview of Russian musical life within the late 19th and early 20th centuries — two volumes and 1,800 pages that took the composer solely to the age of 40.

Stravinsky’s later years had been lined exhaustively in Dr. Taruskin’s “The Oxford Historical past of Western Music” (2005), a six-volume (together with the index), 1.25-million phrase research of classical music from 800 AD by way of the tip of the 20th century that additionally contained 1000’s of different names and figures.

Dr. Taruskin had many admirers. Alex Ross of the New Yorker referred to as him “crucial residing author on classical music, both in academia or in journalism” in a latest interview with musicologist William Robin.

“If you wish to understand how good Richard Taruskin’s ‘Oxford Historical past of Western Music’ is, simply open the primary of its 5 lengthy volumes, and begin studying proper from web page one,” the critic and composer Greg Sandow wrote within the Wall Avenue Journal. “I discovered myself on the sting of my seat.”

That first quantity, “Music From the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century,” was usually judged essentially the most profitable of the collection. In storytelling each authoritative and transporting, Dr. Taruskin wove details and impressions from histories, visible artwork and structure collectively right into a persistently engrossing narrative that will nonetheless be the perfect general introduction to “early music” obtainable.

Certainly, Dr. Taruskin made his identify by way of his research within the Renaissance, with revelatory performances within the 1970s of the music of the then-obscure composer Johannes Ockeghem. In a overview of the “Historical past” for the New Criterion, the critic and editor Patrick J. Smith fondly recalled some Manhattan live shows of Renaissance music by the choral group Cappella Nova, led by Dr. Taruskin, including that “his notes on the live shows bumped into the handfuls of pages, meant to be learn at leisure a lot later.”

As a PhD scholar at Columbia College, Dr. Taruskin labored with Paul Henry Lang, whose personal historical past, “Music in Western Civilization,” with its then-pioneering efforts to put music inside a broader sociocultural context, had a profound impact on him.

Dr. Taruskin printed his first e book, “Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced within the 1860s,” in 1981. He additionally labored with musicologist Piero Weiss on “Music within the Western World: A Historical past in Paperwork.”

Within the mid-1980s, Dr. Taruskin turned a contributor to the New York Instances, the place he was given unusually free rein and shortly turned a determine of controversy. He reminded some readers of the late drama and movie critic John Simon, who was equally identified for opinions that had been energetic, erudite, fiercely articulate — and generally unnervingly brutal. Dr. Taruskin attacked composers Carl Orff, Arnold Schoenberg and Sergei Prokofiev in addition to modern American composers equivalent to Milton Babbitt, Donald Martino and Elliott Carter.

After the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Taruskin wrote a column within the Instances in regards to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s determination to cancel performances of some choruses from “The Dying of Klinghoffer,” an opera by John Adams with a libretto by Alice Goodman in regards to the homicide of a disabled Jewish American by Palestinian terrorists.

“Censorship is all the time deplorable, however the train of forbearance could be noble,” Dr. Taruskin wrote. “Not to have the ability to distinguish the noble from the deplorable is morally obtuse. Within the wake of Sept. 11, we would need, lastly, to get past sentimental complacency about artwork. Artwork will not be innocent. Artwork can inflict hurt. The Taliban know that. It’s about time we discovered.”

In reply, Adams stated he discerned two modes of writing in Dr. Taruskin’s output — his formal musicological work and his “pop” items for the Instances.

“Within the latter he has made a specialty of character assassination,” Adams advised the British newspaper the Impartial in 2002. “This makes good copy. It’s type of like watching these cheesy ‘true crime’ exhibits on tv: there should all the time be a physique rely on the finish, whether or not the goal is Prokofiev, Shostakovich students, or anybody else he decides to humiliate.”

Dr. Taruskin was at his strongest in Russian music, and he returned largely to that research after the publication of his historical past, which he known as “the Ox.” Certainly, he appeared at one thing of a loss in most 20th-century music and not using a Russian connection.

In his historical past, for instance, there have been no mentions of Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Duke Ellington, Ruth Crawford Seeger or Stephen Sondheim. The identify of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, as soon as voted the preferred composer on this planet in a New York Philharmonic radio ballot and the topic of an enormous revival within the final twenty years of the 20th century, appeared 5 occasions in four,560 pages, after which solely in passing.

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Richard Filler Taruskin was born in New York on April 2, 1945. His father was a lawyer and novice violinist, and his mom had taught piano in her youth. Dr. Taruskin took up the cello when he was 11 and as soon as stated jokingly that he knew he would develop into a cellist in order that the household may play piano trios. Later, the instrument he performed most frequently in public was the viola da gamba, from which the cello is partially derived.

He attended what was then referred to as the Excessive College of Music & Artwork in Manhattan and later claimed to have learn each e book of music historical past within the New York Public Library. He was a 1965 graduate of Columbia’s undergraduate school and received a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, which permitted him to journey to Moscow in 1971 and 1972.

After receiving a grasp’s diploma in 1968 and a doctorate in musicology in 1975 from Columbia, he taught within the college’s music division till 1987, when joined Berkeley’s college. He was named a full professor in 1989 and retired in 2014.

Along with his spouse of 38 years, of El Cerrito, Calif., Dr. Taruskin’s survivors embrace two kids, Paul Roebuck Taruskin and Tessa Roebuck Taruskin; a sister; a brother; and two grandchildren.

Dr. Taruskin was stated to have grown gentler in his later years and he befriended many younger critics and students, the identical types of individuals he used to deride in public assaults and personal postcards. He obtained quite a few honors, and in 2012 a convention in his honor was held at Princeton College.

The convention was referred to as “After the Finish of Music Historical past” and a number of other talks had been dedicated to Dr. Taruskin’s life and work. This happy him enormously.

“So long as Taruskin is the one to beat,” he advised the San Francisco Chronicle, “Taruskin is completely satisfied.”

Tim Web page is professor emeritus of musicology on the College of Southern California and received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for criticism for his writings on music at The Washington Submit.



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