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 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Grocery Run

I'm off today, just a single, and I needed to make a minor grocery run. And naturally I went there via the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. Today is a photographer's and hiker's dream - no oppressive humidity, cooler temps, a northwest breeze, and fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. Heaven!

A Jewelweed bloom with dew drop still attached
An Appalachian Brown butterfly in the Dykeman Spring wetland
One of the singers providing the soundtrack outdoors this time of year - an Annual Cicada
A view of mountain and clouds from the meadow
Wade has started his second haying, and his lines emphasize the contours of the meadow's rolling hills
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Bach - Tenth Sunday After Trinity

Soon after his death Bach's music passed into obscurity; the chase after the newest trend has a tendency to leave quality behind in its quest. It wasn't until the mid 1800s that his music was raised from obscurity and put back into its preeminent place in Western musical development. Today's featured cantata - BWV 102, Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben! (Lord, your eyes look after faith), Leipzig 1726 - was one of the first to be published, in 1830, after the long hiatus. And it truly does have a prized place in Bach's compositions. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say:
Bach Cantata BWV 102 was one of six cantatas published early in the 19th century, long before the complete Bach Edition, as examples of the then rather unknown composer's art.  Certainly our cantata is a brilliant example of Bach at his brilliant and austere best.  The opening chorus is like granite. Both the rigorous opening statement and the two highly individual fugues are brilliantly incorporated into the austere texture.  This is Bach at his most unforgiving and Lutheran.  The alto aria with obbligato oboe is on a more personal, almost theatrical note. The bass aria with strings has extraordinarily high energy. Its stunning end on a question mark is but one of its unique features.  The spiky tenor aria with violin obbligato continues the nastiness of the opening chorus. An extended alto recitative with two oboes leads us into the brilliant harmonization of "Vater unser im Himmelreich" that ends the cantata.
Today's performance is from the 2002 recording by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Morning

I have today off and I needed to do some grocery shopping, so as is usual when I go grocery shopping I wandered through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on the way. The Summer has stayed humid and warm with at least two if not three rain events per week, so everything is very green and lush. I got some pictures for you, but some things I just couldn't catch: a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzing around the trees in the wetland area (probably looking for Jewelweed to sip from); and two Turkeys in the high grass up on the meadow, too far away and obscured by the grass to get a good shot. But here's what I did manage to capture.

A particularly lush section of the nature trail
The creek in the park seen from the red bridge
This Green Heron flew across the pond into a Hemlock to keep an eye on me from a safe distance
Up on the meadow looking at the mountains to the north
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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