Monday, October 21, 2019

It's Getting To Look Like Autumn

Today I took my first walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park since being released from the hospital after my stent procedure. It felt great to be walking in nature again. Of course, the first thing I noticed is that everything is starting to look a lot more Autumnal now. Here are some scenes from the walk.

Entering the park by the "back door" on the Dykeman Walking Trail
Along the trail in the wetland
On the other side of the north duck pond, looking at the wetland and woods
A view of the north duck pond
Leaving the park - the creek as it travels through the baseball fields
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 18

Bach composed two cantatas for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, and today we'll listen to the first one, BWV 96, Herr Christ, der einige Gottessohn (Lord Christ, the only son of God, Leipzig 1724). The feature that caught my attention most in this piece is the melodic flute accompaniment that flows throughout the piece, starting with the piccolo (or sopranino recorder) in the opening movement; it adds a cheerful, almost whimsical air to the piece. Here's the late Craig Smith's essay on this most pleasant cantata:
The readings for the 18th Sunday after Trinity are both concerned with the dual birthright of Jesus as the son of David and of God. The Epistle, the very beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians sets up the tenets of belief for new Christians. The Gospel, from the 22 nd Chapter of Matthew, is even more central. The trick question from the Saducee brings forth the announcement of the great commandment; later in the reading the question of Christ’s dual birth is raised and not really resolved.

In the previous Leipzig cycle Bach had set definitively the great commandment in the opening chorus of Cantata BWV 77. Here that issue does not really appear. He is much more interested in the idea of Jesus as the son of God and of David. The opening chorus of the cantata BWV 96 deals with this in a most subtle way. The orchestral color is dominated by the use of sopranino recorder. Its patterns clearly are generated from the image that dominates the whole second half of the tune of the morning star. The pastoral element suggested both by the use of the recorder and the use of 9/8 meter refers to the lineage of David. Structurally Bach points the listener in the direction of the beginning of the second half of the tune. The phrase about the morning star contains the rather startling modulation to the dominant that is achieved by a chromatic alteration to the melody, something that Bach seldom does, particularly with these well-known chorale melodies. Clearly he wants us to hear this as the climax of the movement and the most important idea in the piece. The chorale tune is in the alto, doubled by a high trombone, thus allowing the recorder to be heard clearly through the texture.

After an alto recitative comes a tenor aria with flute obbligato. The bonds of affection are clearly characterized by the curious way in which the bass relates to the flute. The “bonding” is even more clearly characterized at the entrance of the voice. This large-scale da capo aria is so congenial in its A section that it keeps its interest not through contrast but intricacy of the motivic relationships. The B section becomes surprisingly intense mainly by the extraordinary ways that Bach keeps tightening the harmonic screws.

After the expansiveness of the tenor aria, the brevity of the bass aria is surprising. It is, however, a marvel. The right, then left motion in the text is simply yet effectively characterized by the oboe choir alternation with the strings. The middle section, which digs even deeper, retains the oboe – string choir alternation in the most subtle way. The B section advances so far in its penetration of the text that a da capo would be regressive. A simple tutti ends the aria. The final harmonization of the chorale is so simple and sturdy that it disguises its extraordinary artfulness, particularly the active and resourceful bass line.

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is from a recording by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trying to Beat the Rain

I was supposed to be at the Chambersburg Hospital today undergoing a stent procedure. Unfortunately I ended up being bumped to Friday due to a clerical error; apparently somebody in the scheduling department read 16 as 18. So I have two days extra before I lay flat on my back on a gurney while they shove a catheter up my femoral artery again. Not being one to waste extra time, I decided to get some errands done today and tomorrow, and ended up walking through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on my way to the grocery store to get the fixings for a nice big pot of chicken soup so I'll have suppers waiting for me when I get home from the hospital.

I had to get something of a hurry on, though, because there was some serious rain coming, so this was less a casual photo shoot and more of a brisk walk with a purpose. Although of course the camera was with me, and I got some shots that caught my eye. And one shot I missed; there was an adult Bald Eagle hanging out by the Hatch House, but by the time I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and saw that white head and black wings it was disappearing into the trees. Oh well... In any case, here are the shots I did get.

One of the resident feral cats hanging out by the bog pool in the wetland
A view of the wetland
The farther hills disappear into the mist in a view from the meadow
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Other Way Around

Yesterday I needed to pick up some lunch things from the grocery store, but rather than take my usual route through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park first I went the opposite way - grocery store first, then through the park starting up on the meadow and then down to the wetland. I didn't get my usual amount of photos because nothing much has changed since my last walk in the park, but I did get a few I was pleased with. Come take a look.

The view north from the top of the meadow
Intersecting levels up on the meadow
Reflections on the north duck pond
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 17

Bach wrote three cantatas for the 17th Sunday after Trinity, and this week we'll be listening to the middle one, BWV 148, Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens (Bring to the Lord the honor due his name, Leipzig 1725). I chose this one of the three because it's joyously uplifting, which is how I feel this morning because it's the perfect crisp Fall day and for me that's bliss! Of historical interest, this is the first time Bach used Christian Friedrich Henrici, known as Picander, as his librettist; thereafter he was Bach's principal librettist. In Weimar he'd used the poet Salomo Franck, and both Franck and Picander were responsible for the texts of some of Bach's greatest work. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this joyous work:
BWV 148, Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens, was composed for the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. The readings for that Sunday in Bach’s 18th century Lutheran lectionary included the beautiful exhortation of Paul to the Ephesians 4: 1-6 for generosity and selflessness combined with the parable from Luke 14:1-11 of the man invited to the rich man’s dinner. Both readings emphasize humility and modesty. The resultant text is unusually sunny, without any of the dark shadows that permeate most of Bach’s cantata texts.

The communal nature of many Psalms of praise often inspire Bach to compose large-scale fugues; the opening movement of this cantata is an excellent example of Bach’s choral fugue style.  Bach sets a quote from Psalm 29; the appointed psalm of the day our Revised Common Lectionary, as a brilliant and densely fugal work for trumpet, oboe, and strings. The opening statement in the orchestra is basically a canon between trumpet and 1st violin; this is followed by a homophonic presentation of the same material in the chorus, followed by an initial presentation of the first fugal phrase with countersubjects already sounding. Not until the second large phrase, beginning “Betet an den Herrn,” does Bach let the texture thin out to present each fugal voice sequentially against a thematically related continuo line. With each presentation of the fugue Bach adds a fifth voice in the instruments, but this fifth entrance is not always the final one! The final return of the choir once reprises the ‘head’ theme, taken up four bars later by the trumpet. From this point to the end the trumpet repeats exactly its original ritornello but now it rings out above choir and orchestra alike.  The vibrant, dense energy of this movement is reminiscent of the celebratory movements in the B-minor Mass and the later secular cantatas. Clearly Bach wants to give the effect of an enormous crowd singing these ringing words. 

The tenor aria is a virtuoso affair both for the solo violin as well as for the high-flying tenor part. Taking off from the key word ‘eilet’, Bach composes a slippery, flowing line in 6/8 meter, with perpetual motion in the virtuoso violin obbligato and urgency provided by the figuration in the continuo. The range of the tenor solo is unusually high, touching a written B natural at one spot. The elegant trill figure becomes justified later in the text where the beautiful sound calling the devout to worship is referenced.

The full strings accompany the alto recitative, which continues the Old Testament theme with a striking reference to Psalm 42. Despite the profound sentiments in this movement, it not only begins and ends in the same key, G, but also introduces an aria that is also in G. This harmonic stability is in itself unusual for Bach. This sense of groundedness is enhanced by the choir of reeds that accompanies the aria, in which the main theme elegantly and symmetrically rises and descends to depict the receptiveness of the soul to God’s presence. The balance continues in the B section, where pedal tones express the peacefulness of the “Ruhebette” (bed of rest). The penultimate movement, a secco recitative for tenor, is an unsophisticated and simple declaration of trust. 

No text survives for the final chorale movement, although the melody is generally associated with the chorale “Auf meinen lieben Gott.” The message is that of an hourly ‘Amen’ offered honestly with a prayer for Christ to lead us at all times. Our cantata, which began with such extrovert communal rejoicing, concludes with a sincere and genuine, private and personal prayer. This cantata is a wonderful example of Bach’s ability to take ideas that don’t seem to have much contrast and build a convincing and moving structure of faith. 

© Craig Smith and Pamela Dellal, and Ryan Turner 
 Today's performance is from a recording by the Bach Choir and Orchestra of Munich under the direction of Karl Richter. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Today is the birthday of Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Vaughan Williams, 1872 - 1958, a British composer best known as the central figure in what is informally known as the Pastoral Movement in British music, which also included such composers as George Butterworth and Gustav Holst. Vaughan Williams often hiked through the English countryside gathering folk songs of the region, usually accompanied by Butterworth, which he then adapted and used in his symphonic works. He's one of my all-time favorite composers, and I figured I'd celebrate by going for a walk through some nearby farm country to take photos in the spirit of his music, and then post one of his compositions, in this case the Romance movement of his Serenade in A minor. So lets take a serene walk in the country with Mr. Vaughan Williams and celebrate his birthday!

© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, October 11, 2019

Another Meditative Walk

Another meditative walk in the park today as I wait for the next step in my cardiac care. It's starting to look a little more Autumnal in the woods and the wetland - the colors are slowly changing, and the Fall flowers are in full bloom. Here are some things that caught my eye today.

Looking across the wetland
A young Muskrat swimming in the north duck pond
A flotilla of Mallards on the pond
The Calico Asters are taking over the park
Autumn leaves floating on the pond
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger