I remember some of the cantatas my mother played on the turntable in our house more vividly than others. One of those is cantata 132 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!, written for the fourth Sunday of Advent in Weimar in 1715.
To understand this, it helps to know how the Christmas season was celebrated in our household in The Netherlands in the 70s and 80s. Christmas didn’t feature in store windows or on television until after St. Nicholas (December 5). We would not have a Christmas tree in our house until December 16. And while at school we would sing Christmas carols in the last week before the break and have a “Christmas breakfast” on the last Friday, at home we would not have any real Christmas music, including Bach’s Christmas Oratorio until Christmas Day (more about this next week). Until then it was Advent cantatas only as far as Bach’s music was concerned. And since my mother was also a fan of Sebastian Hennig, the soprano soloist in the Leonhardt recording of cantata 132, she probably played this cantata pretty frequently in the last week before Christmas.
As a child, I was very impressed by the soprano aria at the start of this cantata too, but I also remember the “Wer bist du” words in the bass aria very well, sung by Max van Egmond on this Leonhardt recording. Except for the tenor aria (sung by Marius van Altena, qualified by my sometimes pretty judgmental mother as a “squeaky door tenor”) their recording of this cantata is unrivaled as far as I’m concerned. For a prettier sound in the tenor recitative, listen to Christoph Prégardien on the Koopman recording.
Wieneke Gorter, December 17, 2016