Reviewing Musorgksy and his Circle by Stephen Walsh for the Wall Street Journal this weekend, I was struck by how many times the author referred – and positively deferred – to the dominant American musicologist, Richard Taruskin. I counted no fewer than 26 times and I referred to it in the review as ‘a kind of hat-tipping that verges on obsequiousness’.
Taruskin, professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley, is a contentious figure whose ascent, like Vladimir Putin’s, owes much to invisible networks of collegial relationships. His power, like Putin’s, rests upon the payment of tributes – of the kind delivered by Walsh in his otherwise engaging narrative.
Such obeisances inhibit free speech and original research. What will it take for an American Khodorkovsky to demonstrate that this emperor, too, has no clothes?