Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Bach - Fourth Sunday After Easter

Buckeye butterfly
Today is the fourth Sunday after Easter, and the Gospel reading is the passage in John (16:5 - 15) where Jesus tells the disciples that he has to go away  so that the Comforter can come. Bach wrote two cantatas for this Sunday, both of them small, intimate works. I've chosen BWV 166, Wo gehest du hin? (Where are you going?) The late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had this to say about the cantata:
After Easter, Bach’s first cantata cycle included several large masterpieces such as last week’s Cantata BWV 104. In addition there are several exquisite smaller-scale works, including today’s cantata BWV 166. The strangeness and ambiguity of all of the readings from the Gospel of John after Easter come to a climax with Jesus’ speech to the disciples about his going away. Jesus announces that they would all be stuck if he were not to leave them and that the “Advocate” were not to replace him. It becomes clear by Pentecost that the advocate is the Church. The superb text for today’s cantata begins with Christ’s question to the disciples. The gentle questioning music for oboe and strings manages to be both ambiguous and deeply profound. The sweet expressive melismas for the voice of Christ are laid across the caressing and gentle strings and oboe. The piece rightly ends with a question mark. The profound tenor aria lays out the choices – Heaven or Hell, to go or to stay. The piece is in the form of an elegant sonata à 4. The violin part is lost but has been reconstructed by Alfred Dürr from a version of the piece as a violin trio sonata. The Chorale “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut” appears in an arrangement with all the strings playing a wide-reaching and melancholy line against the tune in the sopranos. The alto aria manages to smile and yet contain the undertow of the last judgment that is implicit in its text. A rich harmonization of “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten” ends the cantata.
For this week's Sunday Bach I've chosen this beautiful performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy! 


Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, May 13, 2019

Water, Water Everywhere

It's been raining lately. A lot. Last year was one of the wettest on record, and according to the meteorologists this year is starting out to be even wetter. It rained through this past weekend, especially yesterday. And today is no different - it started out raining, then slacked off to drizzle, and then went back to a steady, moderate rain. And since this is my weekend and I absolutely had to hit the grocery store today, I did my weekly walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park in that steady rain. So I donned my Kamik© waterproof boots and headed off to shoot the park in the rain. The following are the shots that worked the best.

The creek in the park as it runs between the ball fields, with lots of raindrops
Entering the park on a very wet boardwalk
One of the streams deep in the wetland
The north duck pond in the rain
And of course, me being who I am, I just had to tack this old chestnut onto the end of a post about a park in the rain. Heh, heh!

Photos © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday Bach - Third Sunday After Easter

Bach wrote three cantatas for the third Sunday after Easter, and this year I chose the earliest, written in 1714 in Weimar - BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Crying, Complaining, Worrying, Fearing, Weimar 1714). This was the first time Bach used poet Salomo Franck as his librettist; it was the start of a collaboration that would lead to the creation of some of Bach's most memorable works. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this remarkable cantata:
Bach Cantata BWV 12 is his first setting of a Salomo Franck text. Franck was the greatest librettist that Bach ever worked with, and this cantata has a marvelous sense of discovery about it. It opens with a poignant sinfonia for oboe and strings, setting the mood and character for the moving opening chorus. The extreme expressivity of the choral parts is counteracted by the rigor of the chaconne bass. Thirty years after the composition of this cantata Bach remembered this chorus and arranged it as the Crucifixus in the Mass in B Minor.

The only recitative in this cantata is not free verse but a quote from the bible reading for Jublilate Sunday. It is set for alto and strings. The great aria that follows for oboe and alto solo is Bach’s first extended oboe solo and thus the beginning of a remarkable body of work. The text for the bass aria uses the metaphor of “following” to color the whole structure. The two solo violins dutifully follow both the bass and each other. The tenor aria, a mournful and expressive plaint, is accompanied by the chorale melody, “Jesu meine Freude” on the oboe. “Was Gott tut, daß ist wohlgetan” ends the cantata in a harmonization with the oboe above the sopranos providing a fifth voice.

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is from the 1996 recording by The Bach Ensemble under the direction of Joshua Rifkin. Enjoy!

Photo © 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Standing Quietly

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence - that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.”
Lynn Thomson 

As I mentioned yesterday, there were lots of birds in the park yesterday, but they were staying out of sight and I didn't have time to stop and wait for them to come out. So I went back today to take some time and see who might want to pose for a portrait. There was plenty of birdsong - Cardinals, Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Yellow Warblers, Phoebes, Catbirds, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Flickers, and on my way out at the end I heard a Wood Thrush. But like yesterday, everybody was staying out of sight. Part of the problem is that the foliage is so thick and lush that there's an abundance of hiding places. And the light green color verging on yellow gives the Goldfinches and the Yellow and other small Warblers perfect camouflage.

In any case, I settled on my favorite bench at the north end of the north duck pond and enjoyed the beautiful day, with the light breeze and the sound of the creek adding extra joy to the day. I may only have gotten two usable bird shots, but I had the privilege of throughly enjoying Mama Gaia's gift of a beautiful setting and a perfect day.

Orioles like to stay way up in the canopy of the woods, and this one was no different
A  view from my favorite pond-side bench, my "pew in church"
This Catbird was waaaayyyy back in the underbrush; I'm surprised this shot turned out so well
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, May 06, 2019

Blame It on the Rain

What struck me most in my walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning is how very lush and green everything is. Of course, it probably helps that lately it's been raining 4 or 5 days out of the week, every week this Spring. Plus our very wet Winter, and the fact that last year was also one of the wettest on record. And on the days when the sun does come out it gets pretty warm. So growing conditions are at the optimum, and green has become the dominant color here of late.

Aside from the abundant foliage and flowers, there were lots of birds out and about, all singing up a storm. But they were avoiding my camera, and I was on my way through on errands so I didn't stop and wait for them to come out of hiding. So I think I'll go back tomorrow and just sit still. There are a bunch of Orioles in the park, and I'm bound and determined to get some shots of them. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the abundance of Spring in the park that I managed to get today.

Dame's Rocket along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Swamp Buttercups in the wetland woods
Lush reflections on the north duck pond
Bench and reflection by the north duck pond
Mama Gaia's Lace - looking up through the Kentucky Coffee Tree
Looking north from the top of the meadow
A view of the rolling hills of the meadow
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Sunday Bach - Second Sunday After Easter

The second Sunday after Easter has traditionally been called the Good Shepherd Sunday because of the Gospel reading for the day, John 10: 12 - 16, where Jesus calls himself the good shepherd. Bach responded to that theme with three cantatas of the most pastoral feeling of all his works. The one I've chosen for this year is BWV 104, Du Hirte Israel, höre (Hear, thou shepherd of Israel, Leipzig 1724). This is a magnificent and beautiful cantata, and it's no wonder that the young Felix Mendelssohn was inspired by it to start what became the rediscovery and revival of Bach's music in the early 1800s. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this most beautiful and influential of Bach's cantatas:
The pastoral ideal is a significant and common occurrence in music of the Baroque. The twin concepts of the secular Arcadia and the sacred Eden not only stimulate the composer’s imagination but create a sort of nostalgic world that was a favorite of opera composers for the 17th and 18th centuries. This bucolic world doesn’t fit very well with the austere “Weltanschaung” of Lutheran Saxony. Yet several readings in the yearly lectionary summon up this important style. Obviously one is about the shepherds at Christmastime. The other spot in the church year is the so-called “Good Shepherd” Sunday. One of the most gorgeously and purely pastoral pieces is one written for that Sunday, BWV 104. This is a work that was known even before most of the cantatas were published. In the early 1800s a volume of six cantatas later to be numbered 101 through 106 appeared in Germany. These six pieces became significant in the Bach revival culminating in the 1829 performance of the St Matthew Passion by the young Felix Mendelssohn. Our cantata, BWV 104, was particularly influential upon Mendelssohn. The opening chorus is the obvious model for the chorus “He watching over Israel” in that composer’s “Elijah.” The Bach chorus is a marvel. Permeated with a beautiful and easy counterpoint, the spinning out of the fugue themes is both masterful and irresistible. Each of the three subsequent fugues is more ecstatic and passionate. 
The tenor aria continues in a pastoral vein but is darker and more colored. The chromaticism is so easy and elegant that it slips in almost unnoticed. Compound triple meter, a common characteristic of all baroque pastoral music, reappears in the lyrical bass aria. There is something more personal and dark about this aria that throws it in relief of the opening chorus. A rich harmonization of “Allein Gott in der Höh” ends the cantata. 
© Craig Smith
This week's performance is the benchmark recording of this cantata, the 1973 recording by the Munich Bach Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of Karl Richter, and featuring Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, one of the most sublime bass voices in the repertoire. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Brookside Ave. Wetland

I popped over to the Brookside Ave. wetland, the secondary source for Burd Run, this morning. I haven't been over there since last Summer, when it looked to be recovering the "wet" in wetland after several years of drying out. Well, now after another wet Winter and Spring, it's really, really full. The collection pond is actually filled right to the brim at the surrounding berm, and all the maze of streamlets are also full and deep. And full of birds! There were a ton of Canada Geese, honking at me in protest the whole time I was there. Ditto the Red-winged Blackbirds, who were also making offended noises at me. And the Tree Swallows are back and nesting. I'm looking forward to a good Summer there this year, with lots of Nature to capture. Here's what I got today.

A view of the very full collection pond
One of the Red-winged Blackbirds who was actively protesting my presence
The Tree Swallows are back and nesting
Burd Run is up and running full, fast, and deep
Daisy Fleabane in the field next to the creek
Another view of the very full collection pond
My first Cabbage White butterfly of the season
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger