Catching up with Richard Taruskin

December 16, 2014

On Tuesday, December 16 the renowned musicologist Richard Taruskin visited the Conservatorium van Amsterdam for a two-hour public interview with live music. In an intimate setting on the stage of the Bernard Haitinkzaal, Taruskin discussed major topics from his work with three teachers of the conservatory. Musical interludes performed by students illustrated these topics and fueled the debate. The public also had the opportunity to ask questions.

Please view the video below for an impression:


Jed Wentz, traverso-player and specialist of eighteenth-century performance practice, will ask whether Taruskin’s critique of the claims of historical correctness made by early music performers in the 1980s still holds up in view of the current stance of musicians towards the past. 

Hendrik Anders (1657-1714)
Sonata decima, from the Sinfoniae introductoriae (1669) 
Performed by The Amsterdam Corelli Collective

Ed Spanjaard, conductor and pianist, addresses the use of folk song and folklore in contemporary composition, and the fine line between authenticity and appropriation.

Music (recordings)
Theo Loevendie (1930) - Seyir (2002), for 25 European and non-European instruments
Michael Finnissy (1946) - Remembrance day (2014), for bariton, choir and orchestra
live music performed by Elnara Shafigullina, soprano, accordion

Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk, composer and teacher of music history, will talk with Taruskin about his book Stravinsky and the Russian traditions (1996) and, more specifically, about his groundbreaking work on Le sacre du printemps. What has been the impact of Le Sacre on twentieth-century composition, according to Taruskin? And what has been the impact of Taruskin’s book on Le Sacre? 

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) - Le sacre du printemps, version for two pianos
Performed by Daan Kortekaas and Anne Veinberg

Michiel Schuijer, musicologist, theorist, and head of research at the CvA, will give a short introduction to the event, and John Koslovsky, musicologist and theorist at the CvA, will moderate the discussion and the questions.

More lectures and workshops by Richard Taruskin

Taruskin’s visit to the CvA is part of a week-long residence in the Netherlands, combining visits to Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam, and the Orgelpark and VU University. The schedule is as follows:

Monday, December 15
16.00-18.00h Universiteit van Amsterdam, University Theatre, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam
Lecture, 'Resisting the Rite'
'Everyone knows about the hostile audience reaction to the first performance of Le sacre du printemps, but resistance to the work and its original import has been constant over the course of the century since then, affecting its subject, its interpretation, and its performance practice. The chief resisters were Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Roerich, the ballet’s creators, and as a result of their resistance the meaning of the work and its cultural significance has been utterly transformed.'
The 45-minute lecture will be followed by 30 minutes of discussion, and a reception)

Tuesday, December 16
14.30-17.00h Bernard Haitinkzaal, Conservatorium van Amsterdam
Open interview, 'Catching up with Richard Taruskin'

Wednesday, December 17
15.00-17.30h Orgelpark, Gerard Brandtstraat 26, Amsterdam
Panel discussion on Messiaen and organ performance practice
Main theme: How do musicians make decisions departing from a score in order to arrive at a specific performance?
* Welcome & Introduction to the Orgelpark & Orgelpark Research by Hans Fidom
* Organist Willem Tanke on his way of performing (improvising) Messiaen 
* Pianist Ralph van Raat on his experiences with working with composers and their ever-changing intention
* Discussion

Thursday, December 18
16.15-18.00h Universiteit Utrecht, Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, Utrecht
'Liszt and Bad Taste'
'Surely no great composer has been as often accused of bad taste as Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Yet, these accusations have had no discernible impact on his status among the great. Can we turn the relationship around and use Liszt and his reputation as a lens through which to view, and a standard by which to critique, the concept of bad taste? In this lecture, Richard Taruskin will investigate the origins of this concept and explore its function in criticism.'

Richard Taruskin

Richard Taruskin (New York 1945) is professor of Musicology at the University of California at Berkeley, and the author of an impressive corpus of books, articles, reviews, and editions covering western music of all ages. He is best known for a massive study, in two volumes, of Stravinsky’s musical sources (Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, 1996), for his critical papers on ‘authenticity’ in early music performance (collected in Text and Act, 1995), and for a collection of essays on the relationship between music and politics and the many appearances of musical censorship (The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, 2010).

Furthermore, he has created a global sensation by publishing, in an age with no time for big historical narratives, his sixth-volume Oxford History of Western Music History (2005). However, his work is not only remarkable in terms of quantity or scope, but also for the fluency, power and precision of his prose. Taruskin is a formidable polemicist whose analyses of musical practices are always politically and ethically engaged, and who can dissect received wisdom and established reputations with merciless scrutiny.