January 18, 2021

Advent Pic and Cantata of the Week IV



Bach Cantata 132, “Prepare the Way! Prepare the Path!”

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BWV 132 was first performed on December 22, 1715. The nature of this cantata is described in program notes at Emmanuel Music:

The brilliant and extroverted aria that opens Bereite die Wege, Bereite die Bahn [Prepare the paths, prepare the road], belies the profound inward journey of this cantata. In Bach’s time – after the first Sunday’s festivities – Advent was considered a season of reflection and penitence even in the face of the joyous coming of Christ. This cantata dates from 1715 in Weimar where (unlike in Leipzig) concerted music was permitted during Advent. The Gospel for today’s cantata is the moving testimony of John the Baptist in which he quotes the prophet Isaias: ‘make straight the way of the Lord’. Baptismal images abound both in the text and the music.

I will be performing baptisms in our service this Sunday, and as I do it will be my joy to remember these words from movement five, Christi Glieder, ach bedenket, an intimately rendered alto aria:

Christi Glieder, ach bedenket,
Was der Heiland euch geschenket
Durch der Taufe reines Bad!
Bei der Blut- und Wasserquelle
Werden eure Kleider helle,
Die befleckt von Missetat.
Christus gab zum neuen Kleide
Roten Purpur, weiße Seide,
Diese sind der Christen Staat.

Members of Christ, ah, consider
what the Savior has bestowed on you
Through the pure bath of baptism!
From this fountain of blood and water
your garments become bright
that were stained by your sins.
Christ gave you new clothes
scarlet purple, white silk.
These are the finery of a Christian.

The music to the final chorale has been lost, and it has been customary to use the closing chorus from Bach’s Cantata No. 164 as a substitute. The words are powerful, an appeal to God to “kill” us and raise us anew in the coming Christ.

Ertöt uns durch deine Güte;
Erweck uns durch deine Gnad;
Den alten Menschen kränke,
Dass der neu’ leben mag
Wohl hie auf dieser Erden,
Den Sinn und Begehrden
Und G’danken habn zu dir.

Kill us through your kindness;
awaken us through your grace;
weaken the old man
so that the new man may live
even here on this earth
with his mind and his desires
and thoughts all on you.

Cantata texts by Salomo Franck, Elisabeth Kreuziger

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Here is a performance of Christi Glieder, ach bedenket from the John Eliot Gardiner cantata pilgrimage series:


  1. seneca griggs says

    It’s magnificient –

  2. Thank you for sharing this and the other Bach postings. I just finished reading John Eliot Gardiner’s “Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven”. It looks like a heavy read, but I didn’t find it so. It is a thoughtful and delightful trip through Bach’s choral music by one who is intimately acquainted with the music. I found it interesting on many levels: music in general; Bach; theology; and history (general, music, and church). I was fascinated with the history implied by a photograph of the interior of the Georgenkirche in Eisenach showing the pulpit where Martin Luther preached in 1521 and the font where Bach was christened in 1685. Both were boy choristers in that church. Gardiner recalls he and his choir leading the singing there on their cantata pilgrimage.

    May you and all the readers and writers here have a blessed Advent, Christmas, and new year ahead.

  3. Gimme one of them old timey hims instead of this long hair music foderal. Was Back even saved?

  4. Cause I heard he was a mason.

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