Advent IV or Rorate
24 December 2023 – Today is Advent IV, also known as Rorate, the last Sunday before Christmas. Two Weimar cantatas for today. Contrary to Leipzig, Weimar did allow music in mass during Advent.
First up BWV 132: Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn! First performed in Weimar, December 22nd 1715. Libretto by the Weimar court librarian Salomon Franck, Bach's favourite libretto writer in Weimar. It evokes the day's prescribed gospel reading, the testimony of John the Baptist and the prediction of Isaiah, urging listeners to prepare for the birth of the Messiah.
Next is BWV 147a: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben. Also first performed in Weimar the following year (December 20th 1716), but again this music was lost. Bach expanded on the original composition in Leipzig, but not for Advent, as Tempus Clausum was observed there (no music in mass). So he reused it for another occasion, namely Visitation and first performed it on July 2nd, 1723, expanding it with the famous final chorale Jesus bleibet meine Freude. The music for this version, BWV 147a, was partially lost but reconstructed based on BWV 147.
The final movement of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, called Jesus bleibet meine Freude, has become very well known and popular thanks to the transcription for piano by the late Dame Myra Hess (I actually played this work on the piano when I was young). There's a very nice recent recording of it by Rafał Blechacz on Deutsche Grammophon, which I've added at the end. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Music for today
- Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!, BWV 132
(first performance 22 December 1715, Weimar period)
- Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147a
(first performance 20 December 1716, expanded in 1723 to BWV 147 for Visitation, Weimar period)
The Netherlands Bach Society website has more information and a performance of BWV 132 and BWV 147:
WBC04-Advent IV or Rorate
Choose one of these streaming services to listen to this playlist:
Image of the day
The title page of the original manuscript of Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn, BWV 132, from 1715.