Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sacred Vocal Music

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Week One
June 5-9
1:30 - 4:00

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Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, oratorios, passions, and his B Minor Mass belong to the most fascinating works of Christian music. Tying together different musical traditions, from hymnody to opera, from concerto to aria, Bach’s music weaves a rich tapestry that is not only aesthetically pleasing but that is deeply informed by theological insight. The course will explore representative pieces from Bach’s oeuvre. We will particularly focus on the larger pieces: the two passions, the oratorios, and his magnificent B Minor Mass. The course is not only geared toward musicians. Basic musical knowledge will be useful but is not required. More important is a keen interest in Bach’s music, his time, and his theology.


Markus Rathey teaches Music history at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Divinity School. Trained both at a musicologist and theologian, he aims in his work to build a bridge between music and theology. His most recent books focus on different aspects of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. In 2016 he published an extensive study of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Oxford University Press), which explores the musical, cultural, and theological facets of Bach’s piece. In the same year, he also published with Yale University Press an introduction to Bach’s major vocal works. This second book is geared toward a general audience and explores the liturgical and dramatic aspects of his oratorios, passions, and cantatas.

Yale Divinity School

Markus Rathey