2017 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Arts and Philosophy


Richard Taruskin

/  Musicologist

1945 - 2022

Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

Commemorative Lectures

All Was Foreseen; Nothing Was Foreseen


11 /11 Sat

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center


Stravinsky’s Mavra: Lecture and Performance


11 /12 Sun

17:00 - 19:10

Place:Tokyo University of the Arts, Ueno Campus, Faculty of Music, Building IV, Hall 6

Achievement Digest

A Musicologist and Critic of Prodigious Erudition Who Has Transformed Contemporary Perspectives on Music through Historical Research and Essays That Defy Conventional Critical Paradigms

Dr. Taruskin has pioneered a new dimension in Western music culture through musicology research that transcends conventional historiographical methodologies, issuing sharp critical analysis backed by exhaustive knowledge of many diverse fields. His unrivaled perspective has significantly influenced both performance and study, elevating the importance and creative value of critical discourse to the music world.


Dr. Richard Taruskin is a musicologist and critic whose revolutionary approach to early music, modern Russian music and Western music history inspires and fascinates music scholars and music lovers worldwide.
Born in New York in 1945, Dr. Taruskin studied the Russian language at Columbia University before furthering his musicological studies at its graduate school. He joined its faculty after earning his Ph.D. In the 1980s, while writing for The New York Times, other newspapers and academic journals, he provocatively asserted that contemporary performances of early music were not true examples of “authenticity,” as was commonly claimed, but rather reflections of late 20th century aesthetics. This argument influenced the performance world of early music and even today, Dr. Taruskin’s argument underlies the varied approaches these performances tend to take.
Dr. Taruskin has left an even larger mark in the music world through his Russian music research. His books on Russian Opera, Mussorgsky and Stravinsky for example, spawned from a revolutionary method of detailed analyses alongside extensive study of contextual circumstances, including folkloristics, have radically reshaped our image of the original composers—and updated the methodology of musicology research itself.
His 6-volume The Oxford History of Western Music (2005), focusing exclusively on music in the Western literate tradition, represents a literary landmark in musicology and perhaps the largest overview of music history ever written by a single author. Under the influence of ethnomusicology and historiography which has critical approach to the writing of histories, Dr. Taruskin critically overstepped the description method based on some aesthetic and/or historical universality. He presented an enormous amount of descriptive evidence that Western music history written under homogeneous standards actually consists of an aggregation of historical matters that are minuscule and heterogeneous. His deep knowledge of diverse cultural fields allows him to make an incisive analysis of the literate tradition of Western music in the socio-cultural context. Every chapter of his first-edition Western musicology history, which exceeds 4,000 pages, is both thrilling and illuminating.
Dr. Taruskin’s critical practices and deep academic insights have changed music as we know it, pioneering a new realm of music research which can go beyond the boundary between conventional criticism and musicology, and between historical musicology and ethnomusicology.
The quality and volume of his work reveal that in music, creativity can be found not only in composition and performance, but also in meticulous discourse contextualizing the art—and that this, in itself, can contribute significantly to the world’s music cultures.
For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to present the 2017 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy to Dr. Richard Taruskin.


Born in New York City, U.S.A.
Ph.D. in Historical Musicology, Columbia University
Assistant Professor of Music, Columbia University
Associate Professor of Music, Columbia University
Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
Class of 1955 Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
Selected Awards and Honors
Alfred Einstein Award
The Dent Medal
1993, 2005
ASCAP Deems Taylor Award
Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award
1997, 2006
Otto Kinkeldey Award
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Selected Publications
Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860s, UMI Research Press, 1981.
Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue, Princeton University Press, 1993.
Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance, Oxford University Press, 1995.
Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra, University of California Press, 1996.
Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays, Princeton University Press, 1997.
The Oxford History of Western Music, Oxford University Press, 2005.
The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, University of California Press, 2008.
On Russian Music, University of California Press, 2008.
Russian Music at Home and Abroad: New Essays, University of California Press, 2016.

Profile is at the time of the award.