Rebecca Cypess

Interim Associate Director


Rebecca Cypess joined the Rutgers faculty in fall 2012, having served previously as a faculty member in musicology at the New England Conservatory. She has also taught in the department of music at Yale University, at the Yale School of Music, and at Southern Connecticut State University. In her teaching and research, Cypess specializes in the history, interpretation, and performance practices of music in 17th- and 18th-century Europe, as well as music in Jewish culture and women in music. She received a grant from the American Association of University Women for her first book, Curious and Modern Inventions: Instrumental Music as Discovery in Galileo’s Italy.

A harpsichordist and fortepianist, Cypess is engaged in long-term publication, performance, and recording projects related to the German-Jewish patron and keyboardist Sara Levy (1761–1854) and her place in Enlightenment culture. Her second book, currently in progress, is entitled "Resounding Enlightenment: Sara Levy and the Music of Jewish Modernity." In it, she argues that Levy's activities as a performer, collector, and patron forged a German musical tradition accessible to both Christians and Jews. In addition to her written work on this subject, her recording In Sara Levy's Salon has been released on the Acis Productions label. This recording was made with the ensemble that Cypess founded, The Raritan Players, which explores unknown repertoire and performance practices of the 17th and 18th century that have been brought to light through new research.

Rutgers has selected Cypess’s work on Sara Levy to be featured by Benefunder, an organization that directs donors toward the support of research. Cypess is a faculty affiliate of the Department of Jewish Studies of the School of Arts and Sciences.

  • Education

    Cypess earned her PhD in music history from Yale in 2008, where, under the supervision of Ellen Rosand, she wrote a dissertation exploring connections between vocal and instrumental music in early 17th-century Italy. She holds an MA and an MPhil in music history from Yale, as well as an MA in Jewish Studies from Yeshiva University and an MM in harpsichord performance from the Royal College of Music (London). As an undergraduate at Cornell University, she studied musicology with James Webster, Neal Zaslaw, and Rebecca Harris-Warrick, and the performance of modern and early pianos with Malcolm Bilson. Her harpsichord teachers include James Johnstone, Robert Woolley, Mark Kroll, and Richard Rephann.

  • Publications


    • · The Raritan Players and Rebecca Cypess, In Sara Levy's Salon, Acis Productions B06ZYP8SRN, 2017.


    Co-edited books:

    Articles in refereed journals:

    Book Chapters:

    • · “Arrangement Practices in the Bach Tradition, Then and Now,” in Musical Interpretation Today, ed. Sezi Seskir and David Hyun-Su Kim (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming in 2018).

    • · “The Musical Duet in the Circle of Sara Levy and the Ideal of ‘Unity in Multiplicity,’” in Sara Levy’s World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin, ed. Rebecca Cypess and Nancy Sinkoff (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, forthcoming in 2018).

    • · “History and Faust Mythology in John Adams’s and Peter Sellars’s Doctor Atomic (2005)” in The Oxford Handbook of Faust in Music, ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

    • · “Music for a Saxon Princess,” in Word, Image, and Song: Vol. 2: Essays on Musical Voices, ed. Rebecca Cypess, Beth L. Glixon, and Nathan Link. University of Rochester Press, 2013.

    Book Reviews:

    • · Review of Biagio Marini, Madrigali e symfonie, ed. Aurelio Bianco and Sara Dieci, in Music and Letters (forthcoming).

    • · Review of recordings of seventeenth-century music by the ensemble ACRONYM, in Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music (forthcoming).

    • · Review of Sarah M. Ross, A Season of Singing: Creating Feminist Jewish Music in the United States in Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues (forthcoming)

    • · Review of Paul Schleuse, Singing Games in Early Modern Italy: The Music Books of Orazio Vecchi in Music and Letters 97, no. 1 (2016): 151–53

    • · Review of recording by the Carmel Quartet, Paul Ben-Haim: Chamber Music for Strings, in Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology, vol. 12.

    • · Review of Susan McClary, ed., Structures of Feeling in Seventeenth-Century Cultural Expression, in H-France Reviews.

    • · Review of Charles E. Brewer, The Instrumental Music of Schmelzer, Biber, Muffat, and their Contemporaries, in the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music.

    • · “An Italian in Dresden.” Review of Aurelio Bianco, “Nach englischer und frantzösischer Art”: Vie et oeuvre de Carlo Farina avec l’édition des cinq recueils de Dresde, in Early Music 39, no. 3 (August, 2011).

    • · Review of Raymond Erickson, ed. The Worlds of Johann Sebastian Bach, in Early Music America 16, no. 2 (summer, 2010).

    • · Review of Kathleen Berg, “‘The Swiss Orpheus’: An Appraisal of the Life and Music of Ludwig Sennfl (1489/91—1543), in Early Music America 15, no. 3 (fall, 2009).

    • · Review of Giulia Nuti, The Performance of Italian Basso Continuo, in Early Music America 14, no. 1 (spring, 2008).

    Encyclopedia Articles

    • · Articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Anastasia Robinson, the Concerto delle donne, Francesca Caccini, Settimia Caccini, Anna Renzi, and Barbara Strozzi.
    • · Article on Arnold Dolmetsch in Musicians and Composers of the Twentieth Century (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2009).

  • Research Initiatives

    Performance Activities

    As a performer, Cypess specializes in early keyboard instruments (harpsichords, clavichords, and early pianos). She has performed in the original-instrument collections at the Royal College of Music and Yale University, and has given solo and chamber recitals in the Boston, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania areas. Her current performance project, exploring the music performed, commissioned, and owned by the 18th-century Berlin salonnière Sara Levy, began with a recital at Rutgers in September, 2014 as part of the conference "Sara Levy's World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin," of which Cypess also acted as co-organizer. The program was presented in New York at the Center for Jewish History in May, 2015. With soprano Julianne Baird and baroque harpist Christa Patton, Cypess performed and recorded a program entitled "Apollo's Muse: A Portrait of Marc'Antonio Pasqualini," featuring cantatas by Pasqualini and vocal and instrumental music by his 17th-century Roman contemporaries.

    Professional Memberships and Service

    Cypess is the secretary of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, having previously served as a member (2012) and chair (2013) of the program committee for the annual meeting. She is also a founding member of the American Musicological Society’s Study Group on Jewish Studies and Music, of which she was elected secretary in 2012. She is a member of the academic advisory board for the Hadassah Brandeis Institute. She served two three-year terms on the Committee on Career-Related Issues of the American Musicological Society.


    Cypess has delivered lectures at Indiana University, Cornell University, Wellesley College, and the International Baroque Institute at Longy. In addition, she has presented her work at national meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Renaissance Society of America, the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, and the American Musical Instrument Society, as well as at the 14th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music (2010). In March, 2012, she organized, chaired, and spoke at a double-session for the conference of the Renaissance Society of America entitled “Sonic Transformations: Adapting, Collecting, and Listening in Early Modern Italy.”

    In September, 2013 she acted as co-convener of and presented a paper at a conference at Yale University entitled “Only the Passions Sing; the Understanding Can But Speak.”

    In September, 2014 Cypess acted as co-convener, with Nancy Sinkoff (Jewish Studies and History), of the international symposium "Sara Levy's World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin," which brought together scholars from music, Jewish studies, literary studies, history and philosophy to explore the figure of Sara Levy, a Jewish female salon hostess and performing musician who shaped the musical culture of her time and who acted as a catalyst for the "Bach revival" of the 19th century.