Michael Marissen

Daniel Underhill Professor of Music

Michael Marissen, Daniel Underhill Professor of Music
Michael Marissen, Daniel Underhill Professor of Music

Michael Marissen is an internationally acclaimed J.S. Bach scholar. He has published many articles on J. S. Bach's instrumental and vocal music and is the author of The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (Princeton University Press, 1995) and Lutheranism, anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion (Oxford University Press, 1998); editor of Creative Responses to Bach from Mozart to Hindemith (University of Nebraska press, 1998); and co-author of An Introduction to Bach Studies (Oxford University Press, 1998) with Daniel R. Melamed.

Marissen stirred controversy in 2007 when he wrote what The New York Times called an "unsettling history of that joyous 'hallelujah,'" saying: "Music lovers may be surprised to learn that George Frideric Handel's 'Messiah' was meant not for Christmas but for Lent, and that the 'Hallelujah' chorus was designed not to honor the birth or resurrection of Jesus but to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE." Read more in the Swarthmore Bulletin [pdf].

His research has been supported by fellowships from sources in Canada (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), Germany (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung), and the USA (National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies).

Current projects include a monograph, Handel's Messiah and Christian Triumphalism, and a book of annotated translations of the librettos from Bach's oratorios.

Michael Marissen holds a B.A. from Calvin College and Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He joined the Swarthmore faculty in 1989 and teaches courses on medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical European music; Bach; a conceptual introduction to the music of various cultures; Mozart; and the string quartet.