Professor Rathey is a specialist in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, 17th and 18th century music, and the relationship among music, religion, and politics during the Enlightenment. Rathey studied musicology, Protestant theology, and German 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.
A multi-year research collaboration on music and religion in the long nineteenth century culminated in two books. The book Theology, Music and Modernity: Struggles for Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2021, co-edited with J. Begbie and D. Chua) focuses on the philosophical and theological discourses in the decades around 1800 and their impact on musical composition and performance. The second book, Sacred and Secular Intersections in Music of the Long Nineteenth Century: Church, Stage, and Concert Hall (Lexington Press, 2022, co-edited with Eftychia Papanikolaou) extends the focus to works from the later nineteenth century and also highlights musical traditions from France, Russia, Poland, and the US.
In 2016, Rathey published two books, which explore some of the most important works by Johann Sebastian Bach. His book Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture (Oxford University Press 2016) is the first study of this composition in English and it not only sheds new light on Bach’s compositional practice but it also locates the oratorio within the religious and social landscape of eighteenth-century Germany. Rathey’s second recent book is an introduction to Bach’s Major Vocal Works (Yale University Press, 2016). Within the short time since its publication, the book has become a standard work on Bach’s sacred vocal music, praised for its depth but also its accessibility. As one reviewer highlights, it is a prime example for “bringing musicology to the public.” The book also appeared in a Japanese translation in 2017.
Earlier books by Rathey include a study of the Baroque composer Johann Rudolph Ahle, titled Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673), Lebensweg und Schaffen (Eisenach, 1999), focusing on the relationship between compositional practice and the music market in the seventeenth century, and a study of C.P.E. Bach’s compositions for the Militia in Hamburg, Kommunikation und Diskurs: Die Bürgerkapitänsmusiken Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs (Hildesheim, 2009), which explores the pedagogical function of music within the Patriotism discourse in the second half of the eighteenth century. In 2008 he published an edition of the music-theoretical writings by Johann Georg Ahle (Hildesheim, 2008).
Professor Rathey has published numerous articles on music by Bach, Mozart, Schütz, Buxtehude and their contemporaries in scholarly journals such as Eighteenth-Century Music, Early Music, Early Music History, Journal of Musicological Research, Bach-Jahrbuch, and Schütz-Jahrbuch. He frequently serves as a commentator on J.S. Bach and on the relationship of music and religion for a number of major media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR 3), BBC Radio, and Swedish Radio.
Rathey is past president of the American Bach Society and past president of the Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship. He currently serves on the editorial boards of BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute and the Yale Journal for Music and Religion.
Ph.D. Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster
German Baroque Music
Johann Sebastian Bach
Music and Religion
Music and Society
Reformation and Music