Richard Taruskin (born New York, 2 April 1945) is an American musicologist, music historian, and critic who has written about the theory of performance, 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 and Cappella Nova, a renaissance choir. He played the viola da gamba with the Aulos Ensemble from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. Taruskin received his Ph.D. in historical musicology (1975) from Columbia University. He taught there from 1967 to 1986, when he joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1997 he has been the Class of 1955 Professor of music there.
He has received various awards for his scholarship, including four from the American Musicological Society: The Noah Greenberg Prize (1978), the Alfred Einstein Award (1980), and the Kinkeldey Prize in 1997 and 2006. The Royal Musical Association of Great Britain awarded him the Dent Medal in 1987, and the Royal Philharmonic Society gave him its gold medal in 1997 for his two-volume monograph, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (1996).
That book shows the extent of Stravinsky’s Russian inheritance, something that the composer tried hard to minimize. It is one of a number of books by Taruskin about Russian music, which include Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1993), and Defining Russia Musically (1997), which deals more intensively and theoretically with issues of nationality and nationalism in music. Taruskin has also written extensively about matters relating to musical performance; his essays on that subject have been collected in a volume titled Text and Act (1995). His textbook Music in the Western World: A History in Documents, co-authored with Piero Weiss, first published in 1984, was reissued in a new and updated edition in 2007. Taruskin’s most recent books are the six-volume Oxford History of Western Music, on which he worked for thirteen years before its publication in 2004, and two volumes of articles and essays written over the years for The New York Times, The New Republic, and other public outlets The Danger of Music, and Other Anti-Utopian Essays and On Russian Music (both 2009).