Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hints of Spring?

It's still officially Winter, and we have another month until the Spring Equinox, but during my walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning I saw some definite signs of the coming change of season. See what you think.

The scenery seems to have a touch more color in it lately
The Grackles are back, which means the Red-winged Blackbirds are right behind them
A pair of Rainbow Trout in the Dykeman creek
Not a sign of Spring, I just like how the red boardwalk looks rising out of the wetland
There seem to be more Groundhogs appearing above-ground lately
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday Bach - Quinquagesima

Bach wrote four cantatas for Quinquagesima Sunday, called Estomihi in his time, the last Sunday before Lent. As concerted music was banned during Lent in Leipzig, Bach seems to have written some of his best work for that Sunday to compensate for the next four weeks without music. And today's cantata is especially significant - BWV 23, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sons (Thou true God and son of David, Leipzig 1723).  It's one of the pieces he wrote to audition for the job of cantor in Leipzig, so you know he'd put forward something pretty magnificent for the judges! Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this excellent cantata:
The Cantata BWV 23 was one of the two works submitted by Bach in his application for the cantor's job at Leipzig. The other work, cantata BWV 22, is light and not particularly intellectually demanding. BWV 23 is one of the densest and greatest of all the cantatas. The duality of Christ's human and divine identity is characterized by the two oboes d'amore and the two high voices. The thorny, even awkward juxtaposition of triple and duple meters in the opening duet is a brilliant portrayal of the difficulty of the human and the divine inhabiting one body. The tenor recitative is accompanied by strings. Laid on top of it is the modal chorale tune "Christe du Lamm Gottes." The large chorus that follows is in a rondo character. The chorus alternates with a tenor-bass duet. The tenor and bass give the effect of balancing the soprano and alto that opened the cantata. The cantata ends with one of Bach's greatest and profoundest chorale fantasias, a setting of the German Agnus Dei. The chorale begins with some of the weightiest and most ponderous music that Bach ever composed. One is almost unaware how the guilt is lifted throughout the movement which ends with a lightness and transparency never anticipated by the opening.

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is from a 2007 Harmonia Mundi France recording by the Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!


Photo © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Early Morning in the Park

I had an early errand this morning, a fasting blood test, so I was out and going while it was still dark. I got out of the clinic just at sunrise so I figured I'd walk through the park on the way home to see who else would be up that early. ((sigh)) No luck on deer or foxes or raccoons or minks or any other more nocturnal critters; they'd already gone off to bed. Oh well... Still I got some pictures worth keeping.

I came through the park in the reverse of my usual walk, so the meadow panorama was my first view
Two Mallard drakes in the creek where it goes under the railroad tracks
Another Song Sparrow in that Sycamore in the wetland
On my way out of the park I stopped to get my favorite shot of the "bridges" between the ball fields
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, February 17, 2020

It's Almost Like Spring... Almost

What a day! Bright blue sky, temps in the 40s and heading up to 50º F, it almost felt like Spring. Certainly the birds thought so; on my weekly walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park there was a veritable avian choir singing away - Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, and Song Sparrows were the most evident. And the Daffodils that grow along the trail in the wetland are starting to spring up; just the stalks for now, no buds or blooms as yet. But for all that, there was still something of a bite in the air, and the temperature is supposed to go back down to seasonable norms for the rest of the week. Plus there were plenty of signs of continuing Winter along the trail - empty acorn cups and the last of the Winter berries hanging on for dear life. So here are some scenes from today's almost Spring.

This male Cardinal paused in his song to listen for a reply
A male Red-bellied Woodpecker drumming for a mate
I couldn't resist a shot of these empty acorn caps still hanging on the tree
The last of the Bittersweet berries are still hanging on for dear life
Meanwhile, the Daffodils along the nature trail are starting to sprout
A Song Sparrow singing away on a branch over the north duck pond
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Bach - Sexagesima

Bach wrote three cantatas for Sexagesima (60 days before Easter) Sunday, and I chose this interesting solo cantata for this year - BWV 181, Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister (Light-minded frivolous spirits, Leipzig 1724). Based on the Gospel lesson for the day, the parable of the sower sowing seed on different qualities of soil in Luke, the cantata starts off in a humorous mood in the opening aria and then proceeds to get more serious. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this cantata:
Bach’s take on the parable from Luke is speculative and rather abstract. He immediately jumps into the question of why, when given the choice between the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad, man will make the wrong choice. The German word “Flattergeister” is sometimes translated as “flibbertigibbet.” The aria that opens with that phrase is one of the few overtly humorous things in the Bach sacred cantatas. The wonderfully patchy orchestration and the bouncy, un-centered vocal line is the perfect portrayal of vacuous self-satisfaction. The sinister entrance of “Belial,” always with the most unexpected harmonic turns, makes the flibbertigibbet an easy and fair target. The serious and detailed alto recitative makes clear that the results of this behavior are disastrous.

This cantata comes down to us in a broken and incomplete form. The violin obbligato for the literally thorny tenor aria is missing. John Harbison has provided the suitably spiky and virtuosic violin part. The soprano recitative provides a change of tone, introducing the positive affect of the following chorus. Embedded in the chorus is an elaborate and richly detailed duet for soprano and alto. In keeping with the cantata's fragmentary nature, there is no concluding chorale.

 © Craig Smith, additions by Pamela Dellal 

Today's performance is from a 1997 recording by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Maestro Koopman chose to orchestrate for oboe one of Robert Levin's reconstructions of the missing violin obbligato in the tenor aria. Enjoy!

Photo © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday Walkabout

I had an errand to run, to pick up a prescription refill at CVS, and decided to visit the Brookside Ave. wetland, which is right behind CVS, while I was in the area. Brookside is a secondary feeder for Burd Run, one of the major creeks in the area. I hang out there a lot in the Summer because there are usually two or more Green Herons there and a wide variety of butterflies and dragonflies; it's a nature photographer's heaven! It's never struck me as a particularly interesting place in Winter, though.

How wrong I was. With the usual lush Summer foliage gone, there are places and and perspectives invisible in the Summer months, and I got to see some of them today. Not to mention capturing a flying v of Canada Geese flying away as I approached the area, and getting a shot of another feral cat in an adjacent field on the way home. For a short visit while out on an errand this was a particularly productive shoot!

This small flock of Canada Geese flew off as I approached
Burd Run is looking healthy
A view of the collection pond in the wetland
One of the feeder streams in the wetland
A feral cat checking me out as I walk home
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, February 10, 2020

Another Walk in the Park

Today was overcast, threatening rain, with temps in the 40s. And still no snow. Hmmmmm... Still, there were things to see on my weekly walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park, especially in the critter world. One of the resident Muskrats in the north duck pond was out for a swim and a snack; it kept diving and coming up chewing, so apparently the midwinter Duck Weed was fairly tasty. Also one of the resident feral cats was keeping an eye on me from the woods across the pond and on the other side of the creek, weaving in and out of the underbrush like a ghost.

But the most interesting sight today was the group of hybrid ducks who so graphically demonstrated the inherent promiscuity of Mallards. Mallard drakes will pretty much mount anything that quacks, and this results in an infinite variety of results. In fact, the Mallard promiscuity created the modern domestic duck species in all their diversity. This morning it was interesting to see a group of ducks hanging out together who all had different colorings but still carried the print of Mallard patterning. And I'm pretty sure the darkest one was the love child of a Mallard and one of the Indian Runners who were hanging out with the flock last Summer. In any case, come walk with me and take in the sights.

Emerging from the tunnel under the railroad tracks
A Blue Jay hanging out (and as usual making a lot of noise) in the wetland
A shelf fungus along the trail by the red bridge
Duck down on the forest floor by the north duck pond
One of the resident Muskrats out for a swim on the north duck pond
The ghost cat keeping an eye on me from across the pond
Mallard hybrids on the main duck pond
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sunday Bach - Septuagesima

Today we enter the pre-Easter season with Septuagesima Sunday (70 days before Easter). Bach wrote three cantatas for this Sunday, and today we'll be listening to the first one, BWV 144 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin (Take what is yours and go, Leipzig 1724). The theme is be satisfied with what you have and don't ask for more, taken from the parable in Matthew 20 about the workers all being paid the same pay despite some arriving much later. Here's Ryan Turner of Emmanuel Music on this cantata:
Composed in 1724 in Leipzig, the text for the opening chorus of BWV 144 is one of the shortest in all the cantatas. It comes from our Gospel reading today, Matthew 20:14 – “take what is yours and depart.”  This gospel passage frames the central theme of the cantata that we should accept what we have and what we are; we should not be seeking anything better.
Bach sets the opening chorus as a fugue in the manner of a 17th century motet with the orchestra doubling the voices. The fugue subject is resolute and decisive, reflecting the vineyard owner’s command. The countersubject on the text “gehe hin,” first heard in the tenors is busier and represents the departing workers. A brief middle episode, characterized by a series of held suspensions may perhaps suggest the workers still congregating around the vineyard, hoping for more, and reluctant to leave.  The alto aria presents a somber and serious character. The text, grumble not when things do not go your way, is colored with low and dark writing for strings and voice.  The movement in the lower strings gives a sense of disgruntled muttering. The familiar chorale that follows re-states the main theme of the cantata: What God does is well done.

The brief tenor recitative sends a warning: “where there is discontent there will be grief and sadness; and as a consequence, we may forget that what God does is done well.”  The essential word of the soprano aria, “Genügsamkeit” –contentment, is repeated almost obsessively. A simple, personal aria with oboe d’amore, Bach’s choice not to set it as a da capo aria seems to emphasize the notions of satisfaction and gratification. The closing chorale, a four part setting of “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit,” makes a specific point on the final word “verlassen”----in the context of God never abandoning us----with a melisma in the tenor line. 

© Ryan Turner 
Today's performance is by the chorus and orchestra of the J.S. Bach Foundation of Trogen, Switzerland under the direction of  Rudolf Lutz. Enjoy!

Photo © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger