Sunday, September 24, 2017

The First Sunday Walk of Autumn

The Autumnal Equinox was on Friday, and this was my first walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park since then. Despite the Summer-like heat and humidity today, autumnal changes and colors are moving along on schedule. Fall Asters and berries are everywhere, and the foliage colors are starting to add reds and yellows to the prevailing green. The year is aging!

Calico Asters, a prolific Fall flower
Panicled Asters, another abundant Fall bloom
Honeysuckle berries aren't edible for humans, but the birds and deer like them
A view of rolling hills up on the meadow
See? Fall color is starting to appear!
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - 15th Sunday After Trinity

Consider the flowers of the field... (Corn Speedwell)
This week's cantata is pure joy! BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! (Praise God in all the lands!), composed in Leipzig in 1730, is a solo cantata for soprano. This is Bach in one of his more joyous and exuberant moods! Even though Bach's church, the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, used only boys for sopranos, there's no way a young boy could sing this technically advanced soprano part. It's been suggested that a female singer was the intended artist, and it's even been speculated that he wrote it for his wife, Anna Magdalena, to sing. Here's what Simon Crouch had to say about this most joyful solo cantata:
Pow!! Imagine dragging yourself to church early in the morning, eyes heavy with sleep, mind full of cotton-wool and being hit with this! And pity the poor boy (?) who had to sing it! (Do refer, though, to the discussion of BWV 51 in Robert Marshall's essay Bach the Progressive in his excellent book The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He suggests that Bach may have written the soprano part for Faustina Bordoni, the "leading prima donna of her age" at the Dresden court opera (and married, incidentally, to J.A. Hasse, the exceedingly succesful Dresden composer), or possibly even for Giovanni Bindi, a castrato at Dresden). These days this work is always performed by a female soprano and it had better be a good one too!

The spectacular and florid opening movement leads, after an intervening recitative, into the gentler second aria which rather alarmingly brings to mind a more recent tune: Favourite things from The Sound of Music! The soprano then sings the wonderful chorale melody Sei Lob und Preis mit ehren with an elaborate instrumental accompaniment. This leads without a break into a final virtuoso Alleluia.
This beautiful solo cantata must be rated among the greats of the cantatas and has certainly been a favourite with audiences and record companies. There are many fine recordings available. It's a brilliant, joyous exaltation in praise of God.

Copyright © 1995 & 1997, Simon Crouch.
Today's video is of a beautiful performance from February of 2011 by the Real Filharmonia de Galicia under the direction of Helmuth Rilling, featuring the exquisite voice of soprano Lenneke Ruiten. Enjoy!  

Photo © 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Bach - 14th Sunday after Trinity

The first hints of Autumn
Today's cantata is the second of the three that Bach composed for the 14th Sunday after Trinity. BWV 78, Jesu, der du meine Seele (Jesus, you are my soul) was written in Leipzig in 1724, and is one of Bach's early chorale cantatas, composed at a time when he was still developing his approach to the format and considered one of his best. Here's what Simon Crouch has to say:
Cantata 78 starts with one of the most glorious choruses in all music. In the form of a passacaglia above a chromatic descending motif built from a basically simple figure and incorporating the chorale melody, this astonishing piece simply takes the breath away. An equally astonishing contrast is provided by the following movement: Wir eilen - We hasten with weak but diligent steps to you for help, Oh Jesus, Oh Master which you simply have to hear to believe! The accompaniment simply patters along. It's difficult but to picture members of the congregation having to stifle a few giggles. A recitative is followed by a tenor aria with a delicious obbligato flute part. A further recitative is followed by another aria, this time with a lovely sinuous oboe part. A straightforward chorale setting finishes the cantata.

For more on this astoundingly beautiful cantata, do please look at Marshall's essay On Bach's Universality in his collected essays. "I can think of no more spectacular demonstration of Bach's powers of synthesis, his unparalleled combinatorial genius…"

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
Today's video is a performance by the Collegium Vocale under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!


Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Saturday Walk

I took a walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park today on the way to the grocery store. Signs of autumnal changes are advancing - the Calico Asters, another Fall flower, are blooming; and some of the vines and shrubs are turning color, especially the Virginia Creeper. There was a lot to see on today's walk!

Yellow Wingstem Ironweed with some very busy visitors
The Virginia Creeper is starting to turn red
Mushrooms on the forest floor beside the creek
Calico Asters on the banks of the north pond
Fall colors are even appearing in the reflections on the pond
A Clouded Sulphur butterfly on Goldenrod up on the meadow
Cloud castles over the mountains to the north, viewed from the meadow
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More Signs of Approaching Autumn

On my usual Sunday walk in in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning I saw more signs of approaching Autumn. The Boneset is blooming, another Autumn bloomer, and the Bumblebees are slowing down and getting sleepy. Plus it's gotten drier again, so Wade is up on the meadow on his old Case tractor haying away. My favorite time of the year is getting into swing!

The Dykeman Spring wetland is looking a little more autumnal
Boneset with a sleepy visitor
Winterberry growing by the north pond
Wade Asper cutting hay up on the meadow
A panoramic view of the mountains to the north from the meadow
Another view to the north from the meadow
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - 13th Sunday After Trinity

South Mountain, September
Of the three cantatas Bach composed for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, I've always found his earliest one the most compelling - BWV 77, Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, Lieben (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God), Leipzig, 1723. This is Bach's commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and especially Jesus' statement that above all commandments is this one, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The opening chorus is one of Bach's greatest, exploring the complexities of the Law and the one law upon which it all rests. Here's Simon Crouch's commentary on this most magnificent yey most intimate of cantatas:
The text for the day concerns the parable of the Good Samaritan and the theme of this early Leipzig cantata is a meditation upon the ten commandments. Immediately, Bach plunges us into symbolism, the opening chorus is absolutely stuffed full of it! For example, there's immediately a canon, canon=law (a pun, but a common one of the day). The trumpet intones Luther's chorale These are the holy Ten Commandments above the chorus and orchestra. The bass performs the melody in enlarged note values (Thou shalt love the Lord your God is the fundamental commandment) and the trumpet has ten entries, corresponding to the ten commandments. Despite (or perhaps because of, knowing Bach's skill in these matters) all this extra-musical baggage, the chorus is quite superb. After this, the rest of the cantata might have become an anticlimax but it's not so. Following a recitative, there's a superb, optimistic, soprano aria introduced and accompanied by the most meltingly gorgeous oboe duet. The alto aria, that follows the final recitative, is more reflective (Lord, my love is unworthy, Ever prone to fault and guilt) and is accompanied by a haunting trumpet line. The cantata ends with a simple chorale setting. There is some ambiguity here since the movement has come down to us without a text and authorities differ as to which hymn verse should fit.
This short cantata is a most beautiful and profound and yet, at the same time, intimate work.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

Today's performance is from 1997 by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!


Photo © 2012 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sunday in the Park

On my weekly Sunday walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park I noticed more signs of approaching Autumn - the Ironweed, both Yellow Wingstem and New York (purple), is blooming, and Wade has been haying up on the meadow. I bumped into him last Sunday, and while talking he told me that while the cutting was good the conditions for baling haven't been great; it needs to be drier than it's been so the bales won't grow mold. He wasn't up there today as everything was still too wet from our rainy day yesterday. But he's all ready to finish the job; the wagons and other equipment are up there waiting for action.

Yellow Ironweed, also known as Wingstem, is blooming, a sure sign of approaching Autumn
After 5 years I still don't know what this is called, but I managed to get the perfect shot of it today
Somebody's been doing the painted rocks thing in the park lately
Wade Asper's hay wagons up on the meadow, waiting for the next load
More of Wade's haying equipment waiting for action
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - 12th Sunday After Trinity

September scene
Of the three cantatas Bach composed for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, the one I've chosen to post today intrigues me the most. BWV 35, Geist und Seele wird verwirret (Spirit and soul become confused) was composed in Leipzig in 1726, yet the text is a poem composed by Georg Christian Lehms in 1711, and the musical setting seems to be made up of a potpourri snippets of earlier Bach compositions which have become lost with the passage of time. A very interesting situation! The late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had this to say about it:

Bach Cantata 35 is set to an early cantata poem by Lehms, first published in 1711.  Because Bach seldom set older poems it is possible that parts of this work were earlier than the first recorded Leipzig performance in the 1720's.  The work has two large concerto movements for organ and orchestra.  These movements were presumably from a lost keyboard concerto and may have also been originally part of a violin concerto.  The whole cantata leans heavily on the organ, for the second of the three arias is also for solo organ.

The whole cantata is of a serious, even sober, cast.  The organ music is of particular complexity.  Bach wrote more solo cantatas for alto than any other voice type.  Certainly this one is the most crabbed and thorny, but also one of the most ambitious.

This is a solo cantata for alto voice, which seems to be Bach's favored solo voice. Hmmmmm... I wonder if Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena (who was a singer) was an alto. It's also worth noting that structurally this is a very odd cantata for Bach: it's a two-part cantata, and both parts begin with a sinfonia; and there's no concluding chorale. See why this one intrigues me?

The video I've chosen for today is a 2009 performance by the Choir and Orchestra of the J.S. Bach Foundation at the Evangelical Church of Trogen, Switzerland. As you can see on the video, they perform on period instruments. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Another Sunday Morning Walk

It's still Summer, but there are beginning to be traces of Fall; the mornings are cooler, as are the days, the air is drying out some, and the Canada Geese are getting restless. Today's Sunday morning walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park yielded the usual Summery scenes, but the temperature was down 10 degrees and there's a subtle smell of Fall in the air. Here comes September!

Jimsonweed growing in some waste space by Ripple Field
Morning Glories growing in the same waste area
A Red-spotted Purple butterfly near the bridge over Gum Run
The new bridge, getting overgrown, seen from across the north pond
A young Mallard posing on the north pond
A 12-spotted Skimmer dragonfly up on the meadow
A Pearl Crescent butterfly up on the meadow
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - 11th Sunday After Trinity

Retired from duty
Bach wrote three cantatas for the 11th Sunday after Trinity, each unique in its own way, but I've chosen his earliest solo cantata, an experiment that turned out so well that he included such in his compositional repertoire from then on. BWV 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My heart swims in blood) is a solo cantata for soprano and was composed in 1714 in Weimar; Bach loved this one so much that he revised it after his promotion to Leipzig, but it's the earlier version that is so beloved of Baroque music enthusiasts. The All of Bach website gives a great description of this cantata:
Although in his younger years Bach was seen mainly as an organ virtuoso, his ambitions really lay elsewhere. His goal was to set up no less than ‘eine regulirte Kirchen-Music zu Gottes Ehren’, as he wrote in 1708 in his letter of resignation to his employers in Mühlhausen. He appeared to get the chance to do so at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. But to his dissatisfaction, the emphasis lay once again on his qualities as an organist and chamber musician in his first six years there. As in Mühlhausen, he hardly got round to composing cantatas, and the words of the works he did write in this period were taken mainly from the Bible, as was customary at the time. 
This changed drastically in 1714, the year in which he was at last promoted by Duke Wilhelm Ernst to Konzertmeister. Bach immediately started using a much more modern style, breaking with the tacit obligation of using only biblical texts and hymns, and with the custom of setting them to music in a fairly formal way. His innovative approach was inspired by the new collections of spiritual poems that were starting to appear here and there, such as those published by chief librarian Georg Christian Lehms from Darmstadt, in 1711. For the musical setting of his heartrending Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut, Bach chose a succession of expressive recitatives and da capo arias in Italian style.
This cantata is about the transformation from supreme sinfulness via penance to redemption. The explicit words that describe the suffering and despair of humanity are made almost physically tangible by the music. In the first tormented recitative, followed by the heartrending da capo lament ‘Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen’, an important role has been set aside for the mournful oboe. It is only after this that Bach allows the faithful to humbly turn to God in a short recitative and once again a da capo aria. The forgiveness bestowed by God is expressed in the hopeful chorale, in which he interweaves the chorale melody for the soprano with an unusual elevated melody for viola solo (a practically unique occurrence in Bach’s music). Only after this does the believer place his soul in the hands of the Lord, accompanied by a jubilant oboe.
This week's performance is a particularly beautiful one by soprano Magdalena Kožená with the English Baroque Soloists under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner, who I consider one of the best of the Early Music interpreters. He recorded all three of the cantatas for this Sunday in a single concert, which you can find on YouTube. Enjoy!

Photo © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Corn Festival 2017

Ahhhhhh! It's Corn Festival day again! This year I decided to focus on people rather than on the handcrafted stuff. You'll see some booths, but mostly you'll see the people, in masses, colorful, and doing what people do at the Corn Festival - having fun!

It was already packed at 9:30 am
I couldn't resist showing you this antique fire engine at the Cumberland Valley Hose Co. #2
Right smack in the middle of the festival at around 10:30 am
Both the people and the goods are always colorful
Even more crowded at around 2:00 pm
Corny the Corn Clown making his rounds
As for myself, I had lots of fun and saw lots of people I hadn't seen in a while. As you can tell from the photos, the weather was drop dead gorgeous. It was a great day at the Corn Festival!

© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger