Class of 1960 Lecture
Prof. Markus Rathey
"Defeminizing Virtue – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Hercules-Cantata and the Christmas Oratorio"

Defeminizing Virtue – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Hercules-Cantata and the Christmas Oratorio

Markus Rathey
Associate professor (adjunct) of music history at Yale University.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, composed for the Christmas season in 1734/35, draws heavily on previously composed material, in particular on a group of secular cantatas composed in honor of members of the Electoral court in the Saxon capitol Dresden. The secular cantatas employ Greek mythology to depict the virtues of an ideal ruler and for this operate extensively with gender typologies (masculine rationality versus feminine emotionality; virtue versus vice; etc.) The lecture will analyze the gender images projected by one of the cantatas and explore how these images change, are reinterpreted, or maintained when the same movements, only with a new text, appear within the context of a liturgical oratorio. The close relationship between the sacred and secular pieces allows a direct comparison between the secular concepts of man and woman and the gender typologies present in18th century thought.

Professor Rathey studied musicology, Protestant theology, and German philology in Bethel and Münster. He taught at the University of Mainz and the University of Leipzig and was a research fellow at the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig, before joining the Yale faculty in 2003. His research interests are music of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the relationship among music, religion, and politics during the Enlightenment. Recent publications include the books Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625–1673): Lebensweg und Schaffen (Eisenach, 1999), an edition of Johann Georg Ahle’s Music Theoretical Writings (Hildesheim, 2007, 2nd edition 2008), and Kommunikation und Diskurs: Die Bürgerkapitänsmusiken Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs (Hildesheim, 2009). He was guest editor of a volume of the German journal Musik und Kirche (2005) on church music in the United States. He has contributed numerous articles to Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, the Laaber Lexikon der Kirchenmusik, and to the handbook for the new German Hymnal (Liederkunde zum Evangelischen Gesangbuch). Professor Rathey is president of the Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship and serves on the editorial board of the Bach Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Society. Ph.D., Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster.