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On Russian Music Hardcover – December 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“[Taruskin’s] command of this subject is surely unparalleled. . . . This is an authoritative, consistently challenging, deeply engaging volume of essays - very strongly recommended.”
(Philip Borg-Wheeler Classical Music Magazine 2009-05-23)

“Very entertaining.”
(Michael Kimmelman New York Review Of Books 2009-08-13)

“[Taruskin’s essays] demonstrate his . . . rare gift for conveying complex information in a concise, accessible manner. . . . An essential compendium.”
(Notes 2010-07-02)

“Whether [Taruskin is] validating Susan McClary's sexist charges at Beethoven or implicitly acknowledging his debt to Donald Francis Tovey, reading his essays will make you a better, smarter person.”
(Huffington Post 2010-11-11)

From the Inside Flap

"Taruskin's autobiographical reflections of his engagement with Russian music are fascinating. The author's pre-eminent stature in this field of studies is justification enough for issuing such a collection, and the range of materials is considerable."—Laurel E. Fay, author of Shostakovich: A Life

"The scholarship and writing style in this book are up to Taruskin's usual superior standard. It is especially impressive to see the assurance and acute sense for the important issues at the heart of the topic in the earliest essays."—Sanna Pederson, University of Oklahoma

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; F First Edition, 1st Printing edition (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520249798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520249790
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,768,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard M. Price on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that no lover of Russian music should miss. Just in case you don't know, Richard Taruskin is one of the brightest and most trenchant musicologists around today, with a formidable range of expertise, as his six-volume `Oxford History of Western Music' has demonstrated, particularly since his idea of musical history is not just a story about notes but places them in a cultural and historical setting. The present volume is made up of occasional articles and reviews, but they form a satisfying sequence, leading us from Glinka right down to the present day. Particularly impressive is a series of pieces on Tchaikovsky, where Taruskin criticizes the conventional picture that treats nineteenth-century German music as normative and everything else as `nationalist', not to say provincial. He shows how Tchaikovsky is just as indebted to Russian sources as Mussorgsky, but must be treated as primarily a composer in the European mainstream. He is effective in demolishing the view that Tchaikovsky was a guilt-ridden homosexual, whose music is self-indulgent and at times hysterical. In what is perhaps the best chapter in the book he argues that we are wrong to enjoy Evgeny Onegin condescendingly, as it were great fun but not worthy of Puskhin, since the orchestral accompaniment makes all sorts of subtle points and connections, akin to the authorial voice in the Pushkin poem. This volume has nothing, strangely, on Stravinsky and Scriabin and their generation, but a whole series of pieces on Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Taruskin adds powerful support to Laurel Fay's demolition of the pseudo-Shostakovich 'Testimony'. The volume concludes (almost) with a wide-ranging piece on post-Shostakovich Russian music, though omitting Schnittke and Gubaidulina.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver on December 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
ON RUSSIAN MUSIC collects Richard Taruskin's articles on the subject, published in a variety of periodicals from 1975 to the early millennium. For this volume, the critic has written an ample introduction, and for many of the articles he adds postscripts that discuss the media fallout from his remarks.

One thing should be made clear: this collection really only covers Russian music up to Shostakovich. While fans of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Glazunov, Prokofiev, etc. will be quite happy with it, there is a noticeable lack of interest in the composers who came of age in the 1960s and beyond. There are two articles covering festivals of lesser-known Soviet and post-Soviet composers, but the remarks are quite general. Sofia Gubaidulina is only mentioned a couple of times, in lists of composers with no further details. The only time Alfred Schnittke substantially appears is for his comments on Prokofiev, not for his own music.

I must admit that I have little interest in the earliest composers that Taruskin treats, but when he discusses the early and middle Soviet era, I find his views enjoyable. Taruskin takes up many times the tendency for Western critics to claim that Soviet works they liked were secretly dissident, even when there is no evidence for it (and occasionally there's evidence to the contrary). Taruskin does ascribe a doubleness to Shostakovich, but notes that the covert element is self-pity and and self-consolation, not dissidence. The obsession with secret programmes in his music thus gets it wrong. As Taruskin writes, "To jump from such expressions of disaffection to blunt anticommunism (or pro-Westernism), as so many reviewers of the Glikman letters have done, is a gross misstep.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Renato Baserga on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You may not agree with everything Richard Taruskin says, but you can rest assured he will never bore you. Taruskin is one of those rare scholars who can give you a lot of information in a readable, witty way. On Russian music, he is certainly the authority in the English language, both from the point of view of music and of musicology. Taruskin exacts from artists high moral standards that artists simply do not have, but even in this position he is informative and well documented. A lovely book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By demo on June 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
but, as someone interested in the present and even future of music, I find his relentlessly conservative agenda annoying. Despite his knowledge, he has no genuine sense of the vision of "modern" (1900-the present) musicians.

Entertaining always, but . . .
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