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Richard Taruskin. “Non-Nationalists and Other Nationalists.” 19th-Century Music 35, no. 2 (2011): 132–43

Richard Taruskin argues that “we have discussed Russian music in terms of its Russianness long enough and that a short history and analysis of its discourse demonstrates its double standards, and its contradictions.” In his estimation, this privledging of “Russiannes” or “non-nationalism” reduces the Shostakovcah quartets, for instance, to limited programming opportunities
He disapproves of questions that ask “How Russian is it?” by textbooks authored by Mark Evan Bonds and Robert P. Morgan and proposes alternatives to how scholars normally discuss Sergei Taneyev’s works. Instead of discussing him in terms of “Russianness,” you could place his opera, Oresteia, in a lineage of “Operas after Ageschylus” or in a lineage of Greek dramas that extend to the Flornentine camerata. Or you could discuss him in terms of mythological opera, or opera after Wagner, or a study of leitmotivs in opera, or operas published by the Belyayev circle (1885-1908).

Taruskin blames these contemporary authors less than he blames Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov, the person who, in his 1901 Art of the Nineteenth Century, more than anyone else made the distinction between nationalist and non-nationalist in Russian music not only factitious and contentious but also invidious. His stance of separating composers into camps of “nationalist” and “non-nationalist” influenced his protege, Rosa Newmarch, who, in her The Russian Opera (1914) transferred his theories to the Anglophone world essentially unaltered.

Together, Stasov and Newmarch went to great ends to, for instance, distinguish Tchaikovsky from a host of other Russian composers like Rimsky-Korsokov, Balakirev, and Cui, on the basis of his “lack of” nationality. Both of them insisted he was German in orientation, owing to his St. Petersburg conservatory training at the hands of Anton Rubinstein, his love of Italian and French opera, particularly Gounoud, Saint-Saens, Bizet, Delibes.

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