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Defining Russia Musically Hardcover – April 14, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691011567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691011561
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,321,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The term hermeneutics is omitted from most recently published music dictionaries, but it is making a comeback in scholarly musicological studies. Increasingly, there is an attempt to understand works in their historical contexts rather than by application of possibly inappropriate analytic formulas or culturally biased aesthetic judgments, which are cited and "deconstructed" so as to make way for new interpretations. Taruskin, the leading American Russian music scholar (Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, LJ 12/95), here collects 14 essays on Russian art music and Russianess in general, most based on lectures he gave in 1993 and 1994. His usual originality, passionate arguments, and deep, broad research are present as Taruskin treats music by and scholarship on Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Stravinsky (again), Shostakovich, and others. For academic and large public libraries.?Bonnie Jo Dopp, Univ. of Maryland Lib., College Park
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1997

"A passionate vision of what Russian music has meant both as an expression and as a shaping force of the country's character. . . . [Taruskin is] an exceptionally gifted critic. . . . [T]he connections between technique and expression are formidably argued, and it is the capacity to do this, with patience and depth of understanding and with a vast knowledge of the literature, that gives Taruskin's criticism its quality."--John Warrack, Time Literary Supplement

"Taruskin's work is far too rich and multi-layered, steeped in Russian intellectual history, literature, and culture, even to synopsize in a short review. . . . His newest book is essential for musicologists wishing to understand Russia's place in music, and for Slavists wishing to understand music's place in Russia."--Robert W. Oldani, The Russian Review

"More than a musicologist, Richard Taruskin is a cultural critic who deserves non-scholarly readers. His brilliant and alarmingly timely book Defining Russia Musically is about the battle for a nation's soul--fought between Europe and Asia, modernity and primitivism--in the music of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich."--Peter Conrad, The Observer

"Taruskin's hallmarks are evident throughout: research of almost astonishing breadth, impatience with facile views and those who propound them, and contempt for formalist modes of analysis that ignore the extramusical. This is an important, challenging book; no other book in English covers this ground with equal depth or brilliance."--Choice

"When this controversial book first appeared in hardback, it sparked a debate . . . both because of and despite the way it tore into big names in the musicological world. Now it seems like a landmark. . . Richard Taruskin raises important questions about how cultural and artistic judgements are made."--Literary Review

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joan Renter on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Taruskin's name is associated by the experienced reader of Russian music books with texts of in-depth treatment (I bet nobody could research more exhaustively on Stravinsky), rigorous demands of his texts for clarity and entertaining style for the non-scholar reader. Defining Russian Music offers through a series of essays a description very accurate of what Russian music is from the beginning of the formation of a Russian musical identity to the Soviet period and, what I think is more important, why it shows these characteristics. A passage I found very interesting explains the origin of a Pushkin's poem and compares settings of it by three composers from different periods. A non rough-reading text, fully illustrated with musical examples, this book is a must-have for people who appreciate Russian composers and their work as all Taruskin's books up to now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By demo on June 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
Mr Taruskin is an excellent writer and knowledgeable musicologist. I read and learn from everything he writes.

However, I think the gushing over him calls out for some balance.

The 20th century made a lot of people uncomfortable.

The great modernist artists (Picasso, Joyce / Proust, Debussy / Stravinsky) put an end to the “clear” categories (perspective, narrative, tonality / form) of the 19th as sociopolitical modernism (women’s suffrage, worker’s rights, the Russian Revolution, the Irish Rising) spurred the process of ending the “clear” categories of gender, class, empire, and racial entitlement, and as modernist physics (Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, et al) was reducing determinism to an approximation (as opposed to s definition) of reality.

All these currents of understanding tend to terrify the unimaginative among us and reactionary historians and theorists (such as the present day creationists, climate change deniers, and “pick-up artists”) have no trouble finding an audience.

Taruskin is essentially a musicological conservative, made uncomfortable by the developments in the last century that moved away from the forms and tonalities of the "classical" era. As such he approaches a composer like Stravinsky (the most successful of all modernist musicians --pretty clearly the greatest composer of the 20th century) with an axe to grind. Stravinsky was a social climbing snob and as such participated in the bigotry of the upper classes of his time, which, sadly, included making denigrating remarks about "the jews" (see the film "Gentleman's Agreement"). Indefensible as that is, it is still a far cry from being a fascist or nazi (as some artists of the era certainly were).
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By Dr René Codoni on July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taruskin-Defining Russia musically

The term hermeneutics is omitted from most recently published music dictionaries, but it is making a comeback in scholarly musicological studies. Increasingly, there is an attempt to understand works in their historical contexts rather than by application of possibly inappropriate analytic formulas or culturally biased aesthetic judgments, which are cited and "deconstructed" so as to make way for new interpretations. Taruskin, the leading American Russian music scholar .. here collects 14 essays on Russian art music and Russian-ness in general, most based on lectures he gave in 1993 and 1994. His usual originality, passionate arguments, and deep, broad research are present as Taruskin treats music by and scholarship on Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and others.
-Bonnie Jo Dopp, University of Maryland Library - From Library Journal, copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc

Taruskin's hallmarks are evident throughout: research of almost astonishing breadth, impatience with facile views and those who propound them, and contempt for formalist modes of analysis that ignore the extramusical. This is an important, challenging book; no other book in English covers this ground with equal depth or brilliance.
-Choice

As a regular user of his Oxford History of Western Music and reader of his more recent book on Russian music, I never seem to tire of Taruskin`s writings: lean, but knowledgeable well beyond the immediate musical context; not the proverbial specialist in generalities, rather a specialist and a generalist in one. With him, the symbiosis is natural, hence the strength of his understanding and the power of his knowledge. Communicates well and with a solid sense of humour.

obus5 - Taruskin-Defining Russia musically - 1/8/2012
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Abbinanti (tusai1@aol.com) on June 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Musical scholarship today is like a dialogue within itself as well as informing the larger populace, sometimes you don't know which comes first. But here Taruskin must draw battle lines in the sand so to stake a claim,like the one against his benign enemy Peter van den Toorn. Taruskin is this side of the scholarship that shuns the guild system of note to note musical analysis the kind the Schenkerian ideologies have spawned in academia today. This is why his insights are so fascinating. It is incredible to think of all the Russians you hear at primary concert venues throughout the United States it seems we have had virtually nothing to guide our listening habits The music of Shostakovich is a great example,what we have had to guide our listening is his music was a veiled critique of the tyrannical Stalinist system that brutalized and pulverized culture,no one disagrees here. But one important question we never seem to have answered including Taruskin here, was Shostakovich a socialist,what did he actually think of the economic systems of the West?. Taruskin in two brilliant essays one on Shostakovich's opera "Lady Macbeth" and the other on the "Fifth Symphony" we have insights we have heard before, again Shostakovich the culture hero victim.. We also learn of Stravinsky's reactionary cast. I really didn't know he was an anti-Semite. Well you might say how does this effect his composition?. Well Taruskin makes a good argument for Stravinsky's treatments of subject matter, as in the obvious anti-social dimensions in the "Rite of Spring" where the virgin is sacrificed as an inevitability, no resortment to struggle, a concept anathema to Stravinsky.Read more ›
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