Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Weekly Sunday Morning Walk

My usual Sunday morning walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park yielded some nice shots today. I was especially pleased to see the Jewelweed blooming; it's a sure sign that Autumn approaches!

A Silver-spot Skipper butterfly by the north pond
Young Mallards - this tear's hatchlings - on the north pond
The north duck pond
Moth Mullein growing by the north pond
The Jewelweed is blooming!
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Ninth Sunday After Trinity

Of the three cantatas Bach composed for the ninth Sunday after Trinity, my choice for this week's Sunday Bach is considered one of his masterpieces - BWV 105, Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht (Lord, do not pass judgement on thy servant), first performed in Leipzig on July 25, 1723. With the opening chorus a setting of Psalm 143 and the theme of the entire cantata the parable of the unjust steward from Luke 16, Bach perfectly matches the music to the text and creates a masterpiece. Here's what Simon Crouch had to say about it:
There are two essays concerning Cantata 105 in Robert Marshall's collection of essays The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The first The Autograph score of Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht describes what we can deduce from the autograph about Bach's composing practice and the second The Genesis of an Aria Ritornello attempts to "get inside the composers head" while he's composing the first aria Wie zittern und wanken. They both make for fascinating reading. The most astonishing deduction is that of the speed with which Bach was able to compose this masterpiece. Marshall's analysis suggests that the score was completed within two or three days!

Masterpiece it is. This is one of those "perfect" cantatas where there is a wonderful text exactly allied with excellent music. The mood is contemplative and reflective, meditating on the meaning of Christian faith. The opening chorus is a prelude and fugue, taking as text the second verse of psalm 143. The first sentence is accompanied by a sighing, lamenting theme and the second sentence is a magnificent choral fugue. I would love to sing this one! The first aria, which follows a recitative, is beautifully balanced over a trembling viola/violin line: How tremble and waver the sinners' thoughts, while they accuse one another and again dare to excuse themselves. Following a lovely bass arioso, there is a change of mood in the driving, optimistic tenor aria If I can only make a friend of Jesus, Mammon is worth nothing to me. Even the closing chorale receives extra special attention from Bach. That's really the feeling that I'm left with, that Bach paid extra special attention when composing this cantata, inspired by an outstanding text.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
It seems that the definitive performance of this cantata is the 1990 recording by the Collegium Vocale Ghent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe; there are at least four videos on YouTube using the recording. I agree. I find the performances of Bach cantatas by Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, and John Eliot Gardiner to be my favorites; they all eschew the full orchestral treatment of German conductors like Richter and Rilling, stripping back to Bach's original chamber orchestrations and small choirs, Gardiner even using period instruments. It's a more intimate sound, aiming for the experience of the congregants in Bach's churches in the 18th Century. This recording of BWV 105 by Herreweghe fits that bill perfectly. Enjoy!


Photo © 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sunday Bach - Eighth Sunday After Trinity

Again, Bach wrote several cantatas for this Sunday in the liturgical calendar, and I chose this particular one, BWV 45, Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist (It has been told to you, oh man, what good is), from 1726 in Leipzig. Of the three choices I find this one the most beautiful, and also the most complex. Here's what Simon Crouch has to say about it:
An energetic orchestral introduction leads the opening movement to the choral entry on Es ist dir gesagt whose frequent repetition throughout certainly gets the message home. (He showeth to thee, man, what right is, from Micah). This is one of Bach's very fine choral opening movements where there's something for everyone. It's a joy to sing and it certainly sounds as if the violins and oboes enjoy their part. Oh, and there's a fugue too, what more could you want? The tenor aria, which follows the first recitative, has a very attractive string accompaniment and the melody itself, particularly at the opening, is a joy to sing. Bach takes particular care to emphasise Qual und Hohn (pain and scorn) and Drohet (threaten), the latter with extended vocal runs. The second part of the cantata opens with an extended arioso, directly quoting the Gospel of the day, with an agitated violin accompaniment that adds to the strength of the denunciation of the false prophets. The following alto aria is perhaps a little too musically gentle for words that include Hell's fires will sore oppress thee but the flute accompaniment is irresistible! The cantata closes with a recitative followed by a straightforward chorale setting.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
Today's performance was recorded at Waalse Kerk in Amsterdam in 2002 by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


I have the day off so I went over to the Brookside Ave. wetland to see what might be going on there this morning. I was going to check out the butterfly situation, but instead I stumbled across some White-tailed Deer, a doe and her faun. I saw Mama first; she was staring intently into the adjacent cornfield, but I couldn't figure out what she was staring at. Then the faun wandered out of the corn next to her. It stared with Mama for a while, then looked around. It saw me, but I was standing stock still with only my index finger moving on the camera's shutter button, and I guess it figured I was a tree. Eventually Mama looked around, too, and saw me; she stomped her left front foot on the ground and boogied for the woods, and the faun followed. So I continued to walk along the trail and found out what Mama was looking for; I flushed a second faun not too far away from where the original two were standing, and it ran off in Mama's direction. So that was my excitement for the morning!

© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Bach - Seventh Sunday After Trinity

Bach composed several cantatas for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, and I've chosen BWV 107, Was willst du dich betrüben (Why are you distressed), composed in Leipzig in 1724. This is the cantata that set the format for Bach's chorale cantatas for the rest of his career. Essentially, he uses the chorale hymn's complete text as the text for all the movements of the cantata, although only the first and last movements use the actual melody of that hymn. This may have been born of necessity; Bach's librettist when he was in Weimar was court poet Salomon Franck, but when he moved to Leipzig he had no such easy access to a librettist, so he improvised, and this was the result. This is what Simon Crouch has to say about this cantata:
Cantata BWV 107 is a chorale cantata set per omnes versus, that is, with all the verses of a hymn set unaltered. This was an old-fashioned procedure even at that time but, musically, the form that Bach adopts for this work (the music of the inner verses bearing no relationship to the chorale melody) anticipates later style chorale cantatas. Ludwig Finscher suggests that Bach may have been having trouble with (or in finding) a librettist and was thus forced into this innovation! The music of the opening verse has a beautifully intimate feel to it, yet another fine example of Bach's opening choruses. After a recitative, there are four arias in a row for bass, tenor, soprano and tenor respectively. These are, perhaps, less interesting than the outer movements but the penultimate, for soprano has a lovely wind accompaniment and the last, for tenor (the most catching of the four) benefits from a delightful flute accompaniment. The cantata closes with a gorgeous siciliano setting of the chorale.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch. 
Today's performance is from 1993 by the Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!


Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Racing the Rain

I'm off work today and tomorrow, and with two days of soaking rain in the forecast I decided to get all my errands done this morning before the rains descended. Which, of course, means I walked through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on my way to the grocery store, camera in hand. I captured some pretties on the way through.

A Morning Glory in the woods by the north pond
Young Mallards on the north pond
A Common Buckeye on the hay path in the meadow
Horse Nettle in the meadow
A Variegated Fritillary butterfly in the meadow
You'll be happy to know I beat the rain. As I'm putting this post together it's pouring buckets out there, with an occasional rumble of thunder. And of course, me being who I am, I can't help but add Dougie MacLean's "Ready For the Storm"; this version is from the Transatlantic Sessions featuring Dougie and his regular performing partner at the time, Kathy Mattea, and backed by the TS "house band" - Jerry Douglas on dobro, Russ Barenberg on mandolin, Danny Thompson on bass, and extra backing vocals from Molly Mason. Enjoy!

© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Bach - Sixth Sunday After Trinity

Bach composed two cantatas for the sixth Sunday after Trinity, both among the most beautiful of his cantatas. But the editors of the Bach Gesellschaft Edition, the definitive edition of Bach's works, considered BWV 9, Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (Salvation has come to us) to be among the top ten most important of his liturgical cantatas, and who am I to disagree with them? It's a chorale cantata written late in his career, around 1732 to 1735; in fact, it was written well after he'd stopped writing weekly cantatas. But because it was written so late in his career it carries the lessons Bach had developed over the years and is as fine an example of the craft of the cantata as there is. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say of it:
Bach's setting of "Es ist das Heil" is one of his freshest and most appealing chorale settings. Flute and oboe d'amore play a concerto-style movement accompanied very lightly by strings and continuo. Most of the musical material is not based upon the chorale tune, which appears high and light in the choral sopranos. Rather, all of the melodies act as countersubjects to the tune. All of the recitatives in our cantata are concerned with the rule of law so that Bach sets them all for a rather authoritarian-sounding bass voice. This is in extreme contrast to the passion of the tenor aria and the childlike simplicity of the soprano-alto duet. The sinking into the mire in the text of the tenor aria is characterized not only by the downward rush of the voice but the devilish Tartini-like violin writing. After the sinister tenor aria and the stern recitative, the re-entrance of the flute and oboe d'amore to accompany the soprano and alto adds a heavenly light touch. The musical material is so tuneful and attractive that the listener hardly notices that the work is an extremely skilled four-voice canon. Bach often uses the greatest learning to characterize childlike purity. The harmonization of the chorale that ends our cantata is as fresh and spring-like as the opening chorus.
This week's performance is from 2002 by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday in the Park

I started a new job this week, and today was my first day off since Sunday, so of course I celebrated by cutting through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on my way to the grocery store. Given the heat and humidity lately, and the rains that the humid air squeezes out from time to time, everything is very lush and green. While walking along this morning I often felt as if I were walking in a green tunnel. Here are some scenes from that walk.

A baby bunny on the Dykeman Walking Trail by the ball fields
Entering the Dykeman Spring Nature Park along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A particularly green section of the Dykeman Walking Trail
A Silver-spot Skipper butterfly in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A view of the creek from the red bridge
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger