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Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn, BWV 132

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Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn
BWV 132
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Painting of the interior of the church Schloßkirche, viewed along the nave towards the altar, showing two balconies and the organ on a third level above the altar
Occasion Fourth Sunday in Advent
Performed 22 December 1715 (1715-12-22): Weimar
Movements 6
Cantata text Salomon Franck
Chorale Elisabeth Cruciger's "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn"
Vocal SATB choir and solo
  • oboe
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • cello
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn (Prepare the paths, prepare the road),[1] BWV 132 in Weimar in 1715 for the fourth Sunday of Advent and led the first performance on 22 December 1715.

Bach had taken up regular cantata composition a year before when he was promoted to concertmaster at the Weimar court, writing one cantata per month to be performed in the Schlosskirche, the court chapel in the ducal Schloss. Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn was his first cantata for the fourth Sunday in Advent. The libretto by the court poet Salomo Franck is related to the day's prescribed gospel reading, the testimony of John the Baptist. Franck derives from it thoughts about baptism as a preparation of the individual Christian who is addressed as a limb of Christ.

Bach structured the music in six movements of alternating arias and recitatives, and scored it for a small ensemble of four vocal parts, oboe, strings and continuo. The voices are combined only in the closing chorale, the fifth stanza of Elisabeth Cruciger's hymn "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn". The music of the chorale, which was possibly on a different sheet, is lost but can be replaced by a setting of the same stanza in a different cantata. In his composition, Bach follows Franck's Baroque imagery closely, illustrating for example the baptismal water.

History and words[edit]

On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the Schlosskirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule.[2][3] He wrote this cantata for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, dating it himself.[2]

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (Philippians 4:4–7), and from the Gospel of John, the testimony of John the Baptist (John 1:19–28).[4] The cantata text was written by the court poet Salomon Franck, published in the collection Evangelisches Andachts-Opffer in 1715.[2] He included the fifth stanza of Elisabeth Cruciger hymn "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn" (1524).[5] Franck paraphrases in the first aria the passage from the Book of Isaiah which is quoted in the prescribed gospel, "Bereitet dem Herrn den Weg" (Prepare the path for the Lord, Isaiah 40:3–4). The same passage from Isaiah appears in the beginning of Handel's Messiah.[6] Franck also refers to the baptism as a way of preparation. The individual Christian is addressed as a limb of Christ.[7]

Bach led the first performance of the cantata on 22 December 1715 in the ducal chapel.[6] He could not revive the work in Leipzig because tempus clausum was observed there during Advent.[4] The cantata was first published in 1881 in the Bach Gesellschaft edition, edited by Wilhelm Rust.[8]

Structure and scoring[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in six movements, alternating arias and recitatives, concluded by a chorale.[4] As in several other cantatas on words by Franck, it is scored for a small ensemble of four vocal soloists (soprano (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B)),and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of oboe (Ob), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), cello (Vc) and basso continuo (Bc) including bassoon.[4][9] A choir is only needed for the chorale, if at all. The title of the autograph score reads: "Dominicâ 4 Adventus Xsti Concerto. / Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn. / â 9. / 1 Hautbois. / 2 Violini / 1 Viola / Violoncello. / S:A:T:B: / col Basso per l'Organo / di / GSBach".[10] The duration is given as 22 minutes.[4] The music of the chorale is lost; it may have been noted in a simple setting on a separate sheet, as in the similar case of Nur jedem das Seine, BWV 163, composed four weeks earlier. For practical purposes the same verse, closing Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet, BWV 164, in 1725, may be used.[4][11]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, and the abbreviations for voices and instruments the list of Bach cantatas. The keys and time signatures are taken from the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4). The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn BWV 132
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn Franck Aria S Ob 2Vl Va A major 6/8
2 Willst du dich Gottes Kind und Christi Bruder nennen Franck Recitative T common time
3 Wer bist du? Frage dein Gewissen Franck Aria B Vc E major common time
4 Ich will, mein Gott, dir frei heraus bekennen Franck Recitative A 2Vl Va common time
5 Christi Glieder, ach bedenket Franck Aria A Vl solo B minor common time
6 Ertöt uns durch deine Güte Cruziger Chorale SATB music lost common time



First page of the autograph score, titled "Concerto Dom. Adventus 4ta. â 1 Hautb. 2 Violini. Viola. 4 Voci.".[10]

The first aria, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!" (Prepare the paths, prepare the road!),[1] is in da capo form in a 6/8 time signature, accompanied by the full ensemble.[12] The soprano renders her calls to prepare the ways in melismas of several measures of semiquavers.[6] John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000, describes the character of the movement of "insouciant grace and fleet-footed buoyancy befitting a slowish gigue or a French loure."[6] The oboe adds virtuoso figuration and trills, reminiscent of Bach's secular music. The aria is concluded by rejoicing calls: "Messias kömmt an" (The Messiah arrives).[4][13]


The tenor recitative, "Willst du dich Gottes Kind und Christi Bruder nennen" (If you wish to be called God's child and Christ's brother),[1] contains extended arioso passages, to stress "der Christen Kron und Ehre" (the Christians' crown and glory) [1] and "Wälz ab die schweren Sündensteine" (back the heavy stones of sin).[1] The voice and the continuo are at times set in imitation, an image for the Nachfolge (following), as they go together to express the unity achieved, on the words "daß er mit dir im Glauben sich vereine" (so that He may unite Himself to you in faith).[1][6]


In the bass aria, "Wer bist du? Frage dein Gewissen" (Who are you? Ask your conscience),[1] the question "Wer bist du?" (Who are you?),[1] posed by the priests to St. John in the gospel, is given to the bass as the vox Christi, as if Jesus asked the listener this question. The cello often plays a "concertante role".[4] Its first motif expresses the question and is repeated throughout the movement, and the vocal line is derived from it.[4]


The expressive declamation of the alto recitative, "Ich will, mein Gott, dir frei heraus bekennen" (I would freely confess to You, my God),[4] is highlighted by chords in the strings.[4]


A solo violin accents the alto aria, "Christi Glieder, ach bedenket" (Christ's members, ah, consider),[1] possibly inspired by the words "Christus gab zum neuen Kleide roten Purpur, weiße Seide" (Christ gave as new garments crimson robes, white silk).[1][4] Gardiner interprets it as "the cleansing effect of baptismal water".[6] The musicologist Julian Mincham supports that, stating: "Bach seldom neglects opportunities of creating musical images of cleansing water when mention is made of the act of baptism. This is the starting point of his invention of the violin obbligato melody".[12]


The four-part setting of the closing chorale, "Ertöt uns durch deine Güte" (Mortify us through Your goodness),[4][14] is lost, but can be taken from Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet, BWV 164,transposed to A major.[2][4]


The listing is taken from the selection on the Bach Cantatas Website.[8] Choirs with one voice per part (OVPP) and instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are marked by green background.

Recordings of Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn BWV 132
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Instr.
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 61 & BWV 132 Kahlhöfer, HelmutHelmut Kahlhöfer
Kantorei Barmen-Gemarke
Deutsche Bachsolisten
Bach Recordings 1966 (1966)
Bach Cantatas Vol. 1 – Advent and Christmas Richter, KarlKarl Richter
Münchener Bach-Chor
Münchener Bach-Orchester
Archiv Produktion 1972 (1972)
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 60 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1977 (1977)
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 7 Leonhardt, GustavGustav Leonhardt
Teldec 1971 (1971) Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 2 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1995 (1995) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 7 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 1997 (1997) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 4 – Cantatas Vol. 1 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 1999 (1999) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. Vol. 13: Köln/Lüneburg / For the 1st Sunday in Advent / For the 4th Sunday in Advent Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 9 Kuijken, SigiswaldSigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2008 (2008) OVPP Period


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 132 – Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wolff, Christoph (1995). Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn, BWV 132 (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 8–10. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Koster, Jan. "Weimar 1708–1717". Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Dürr, Alfred (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Oxford University Press. pp. 23, 75–77, 86. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  5. ^ "Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner, John Eliot (2009). "Cantatas for the Fourth Sunday in Advent / Michaeliskirche, Lüneburg" (PDF). Monteverdi Choir. p. 19–20. Retrieved 16 December 2017. 
  7. ^ Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 104–106. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  8. ^ a b Oron, Aryeh; et al. "Cantata BWV 132 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  9. ^ Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 132 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!". University of Alberta. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Grob, Jochen (2014). "BWV 132/ BC A 6" (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  11. ^ Leonard, James. "Cantata No. 132, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn," BWV 132". Allmusic. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 67 BWV 132 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn! / Prepare the paths and byways!". Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Isoyama, Tadashi (1998). "BWV 132: Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn! / (Prepare the Paths, Prepare the Road!)" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 6. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  14. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn". Bach Cantatas Website. 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 


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