Bach Expert Erickson Wins Mellon Fellowship

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded an Emeritus Fellowship to Raymond Erickson (Prof. Emer., Queens, Music) for his proposal “Tolerance, Jews, and the Early Enlightenment in Saxony: The Witness of Leipzig Theologians.”

Erickson, a noted Bach authority, was looking several years ago for information on Jews in Leipzig around 1724, when Bach first composed and performed the St. John Passion there. In the course of his research he learned of a 1714 Gutachten, or learned opinion, by the dean and other theological faculty of Leipzig University, that strongly defended Jews against the long-standing accusation that they killed Christian children in order to use their blood in Jewish rituals. Surprised by the existence of such a document in an area and among churchmen with a long history of anti-Judaism, he sought out a copy of the document in the Dresden State Archives, and transcribed and translated it. An article on this can be found in The Musical Quarterly (Oxford University Press), online in mid-December and in print in January 2012.

The one-year fellowship will allow Erickson to finish a critical edition and translation of the Gutachten, with extensive annotation, passages from sources cited in the Gutachten, and essays dealing with the broader cultural context.

The Emeritus Fellowships support the scholarly activities of outstanding retired faculty members in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invites institutions to nominate applicants, after which a panel of distinguished scholars selects a group of finalists. Other GC recipients in recent years have included Samuel L. Leiter (Theatre), Jane M. Ross (Art History), and Leo Treitler (Music), who won two such awards.

Erickson, who holds a Ph.D. in music history from Yale, edited The Worlds of Johann Sebastian Bach (Amadeus Press, 2009) and Schubert’s Vienna (Yale University Press, 1997), and he was the artistic director of the 74th Annual Bach Festival at Whittier College in California this March. After retiring from Queens College and the Graduate Center in 2008, he was appointed to the Bard College Conservatory of Music as a performance practice specialist. Erickson, who has been teaching historical performance practice since 1975, was a participant in the first American recording, by Aston Magna, of the Brandenburg Concertos on period instruments and has given lectures and master classes on Bach interpretation in the United States and Europe.

Submitted on: DEC 13, 2011

Category: Music Ph.D. - D.M.A, Faculty Activities, Faculty Awards