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Masterclass – Prof. Richard Taruskin (UC Berkeley)

Catching up with Richard Taruskin

Date: 15-19 December 2014
Time: 4-6 pm (Dec. 15), 2.30-5 pm (Dec. 16), 3-5.30 pm (Dec. 17), 4-7 pm (Dec. 18), 9.30am -12.30 pm (Dec 19)

  • University Theatre, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, 1012 CP Amsterdam (Dec. 15)
  • Bernard Haitinkzaal, Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Oosterdokskade 151, 1011 DL Amsterdam (Dec. 16)
  • Orgelpark Amsterdam, Gerard Brandtstraat 26, 1054 JK Amsterdam (Dec. 17)
  • Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, 3512 BR Utrecht (Dec. 18)
  • Room 1.03, Drift 25, 3512 BR Utrecht (Dec. 19)

Credits: 2 ECTS
Open to: RMa students, PhD candidates (Musicology, Cultural History, Arts, European Studies)
Coordinated by: Prof. Karl Kügle (UU), drs. Harm Langenkamp MA (UU)


Over recent decades, Richard Taruskin has been one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Musicology. His writings are copious and have been extremely influential, re-shaping fields like performance practice research, research on Russian music, and the study of nationalism in music. Professor Taruskin will give a series of two lectures, two workshops and a seminar, allowing participants to experience the full range and depth of his scholarship.

As Professor of Musicology at Columbia University (1976-1986) and the University of California, Berkeley (1986-present), Richard Taruskin has produced an impressive oeuvre, which is both highly insightful from an academic perspective and accessible to non-specialized readers. The challenging insights he developed in works like Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1993), Text and Act (1995), Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra (1996), and Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays (1997) also profoundly informed his magnum opus, the six-volume Oxford History of Western Music (2005).

This event is organised by the Huizinga Institute in cooperation with the Research Group Musicology at Utrecht University, UvA Musicology, CvA, and Orgelpark / VU.


December 15
Lecture at the University of Amsterdam (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, 1012 CP Amsterdam): 4.00pm – 6.00pm, University Theatre

“Resisting the Rite”
Lecture of ca. 45 min, followed by ca. 30 min-discussion, reception

A public lecture and discussion on the reception of Stravinky’s iconic composition Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring).

Abstract: 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.

December 16
Public interview with Taruskin at the Conservatory of Amsterdam (Oosterdokskade 151, 1011 DL Amsterdam): 2.30pm – 5.00pm, Bernard Haitinkzaal

“Catching up with Richard Taruskin”
Open discussion on historical performance practice, folk elements in contemporary music; and Stravinsky and modernism; closing performance of The Rite of Spring for four-hand piano; reception

December 17
Open panel discussion with Taruskin at the Orgelpark (Gerard Brandtstraat 26, 1054 JK Amsterdam): 3.00pm – 5.30pm
Introduction to the Orgelpark and the VU University by Hans Fidom (30 min);
Discussion on Messiaen and organ performance; panel discussion with Taruskin and colleagues from UvA, UU, CvA, and Orgelpark (60 min); reception

December 18
Colloquium in the series “Utrecht Colloquia in the Musicologies”, Utrecht University, Sweelinckzaal (Drift 21): 4.15pm-7 pm

“Liszt and Bad Taste”; reception

A public lecture in the position of Franz Liszt in music historiography.

Abstract: Surely no great composer has been as often accused of bad taste as Franz Liszt.  Just as surely, these accusations have had no discernible impact on his status among the great.  That curious circumstance suggests that one can 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. Its origins will be sought and suggested, and its function in criticism explored.

December 19
Seminar for Research MA students and doctoral candidates. Utrecht University, Drift 25, Room 1.03: 9.30am -12.30 pm

This seminar, which will not be open to the general public, will synthesize the previous events. Participants will be asked to present their assignments and interact directly in discussion with Prof. Taruskin. Chaired by Prof. Kügle.

Preparation and readings:

Students read the following assigned literature in preparation for the lectures:

December 15

  • Stravinsky, Igor. “Apropos Le Sacre du Printemps.” Saturday Review, December 26, 1959, 29-30, 37.
  • Taruskin, Richard. “Resisting the Ninth.” 19th Century Music 12, no. 3 (1989), 241-256.
  • “A Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite of Spring, the Tradition of the New, and ‘The Music Itself’.” Modernism/Modernity 2, no. 1 (1995): 1-26.

December 16 and 17

  • Taruskin, Richard. Introduction (“Last Thoughts First”) and Chapter 4 (“The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past”) from Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

December 18

  • Rosen, Charles. Chapter 8 (“Liszt: On Creation as Performance”) from The Romantic Generation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Hume, David. “Of the Standard of Taste,” from Four Dissertations. London: Millar, 1757.
Written Assignments:

1., 2., 3. Prepare a written response of 500-750 words for each of the three blocks (i.e., three separate texts of 500-750 words each) of readings and submit your text BEFORE the relevant event to and

  1. Summarize your impressions of the four events of 15-18 December and formulate questions for Richard Taruskin (250-500 words). Submit these by 9 am on 19 December 2014 to You will be called upon to discuss one or two of your questions in class with Richard Taruskin directly.

In order to obtain the 2 EC you must a) submit all written work in full and on time, in English; b) attend the discussion on Friday 19 Dec and actively participate in it.

After successfully completing all the requirements for this masterclass, you can obtain a certificate of the credits upon request ( With this certificate you can validate the credits at your own local Graduate School.