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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn (Prepare the way, prepare the course)

Cantata 132

  • Fourth Sunday in Advent
  • Epistle: Phil. iv. 4-7 (Rejoice in the Lord always)
  • Gospel: John i. 19-28 (Make straight the way of the Lord)
  • Rating: 2+

Whereas at Leipzig cantatas were only performed on the first Sunday in Advent, at Weimar they were performed on the fourth Sunday, hence the existence of this piece. There is a distinctly chamber-music feel to this work with small orchestra and vocal soloists. The final chorale poses something of a dilemma since text was set but the music is lost. However, the text is the same as is set in BWV 164 so that setting can be carried over from there and presumably sung by the soloists alone.

The most attractive part of this cantata is the opening movement which is an extended aria for soprano. There is a fine orchestral introduction leading to a flowing vocal melody. The following recitative suffers from rather dry didactic words (it amounts to "be good little boys and girls if you want to go to heaven"). Neither of the arias (the first for bass, the second for alto) are particularly outstanding and the most notable points in both of them concern the accompaniment. In the rather spare bass aria, the cello has a distinctly fidgety motif that creates some interesting harmonies and in the alto aria the violin has a demanding and attractive part.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

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