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Bach Scholar Michael Marissen Plays Central Role at Composer's Sommerfest

Bach Scholar Michael Marissen Plays
Central Role at Composer's Sommerfest

by Alisa Giardinelli

Each year, New York's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church holds Bach Sommerfest, a mix of religious observances with musical discussions and workshops. According to the New York Times, the lectures and broader discussions at this year's festival, held this weekend, were largely the work of Daniel Underhill Professor of Music Michael Marissen.

Michael Marissen

Michael Marissen


Although the size of Bach's choruses was the subject of much debate, Marissen, an internationally acclaimed Bach scholar, focused more on how a specific piece may be better served by using a small chorus or a large one. If "the most strident defenders" of one voice per part were using larger forces, he said, their performances "would be almost as anemic and bloodless." more (subscription required)

Last year, Marissen stirred controversy when he wrote what the Timescalled 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.


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