This painted bunting showed up at the swamp this morning. Jacumba bird #189. It was traveling with a female-type lazuli bunting and feeding in the willows next to the concrete standpipe. Guy suggested that the painted bunting is a first-year male. These birds are common cage birds in Mexico, so most records are not accepted by the bird authorities -the California Bird Record Committee – as valid sightings because they are reasonably thought to be escaped birds. Most of the reports for this birds are from the Tijuana River Valley, just a stones throw from Tijuana and it wild bird markets. So if you find a painted bunting around San Ysidro in January, you can have no doubt that its an escaped bird. But if you find this bird in Jacumba in August or September the chances of it being an authentic migrant are very good. And the fact that it was traveling with a lazuli bunting, as closely related species, plus the fact that there is no substantial Mexican community nearby where this bird could have escaped from all point to this bird being accepted by the bird authorities.
The bunting only made one appearance while I was there, and luckily I had my camera and got a bunch of panicky photos. Gary Nunn stopped by and looked for the bird from about 9:am to 5:00 pm without any luck. Trent Stanley & I searched on Saturday 8-29-15 in the early to mid morning without any luck either. Gary found an odd sparrow-like bird that eluded his best efforts and on Saturday we found it and identified it as a juvenile black-chinned sparrow. At first we thought it was an oddball junco. But the pics in Sibley matched up perfectly for black-chinned. Another new Jacumba bird, #190.
The Cooper’s hawk is the terror of the bird world. When these accipitors show up all the little birds fly off, hide, and are quiet! They are commonly mistaken for peregrine falcon’s, and they share the falcon’s hunting skills.
Now for my biased and prejudiced treatise on the romantic era in orchestral music. Pay attention!
People throw around the term “classical music” all the time. Its a somewhat ambiguous label for all orchestra music. Used properly, the musical term “classical music” refers to music as defined by Mozart (1756-1791). The earlier musical era, the baroque, is defined more-or-less by G.F.Handel (1685-1759) and J.S. Bach (1685-1750. The romantic era follows the classical and is usually considered to have begun with Beethoven (1770-1827) who transitioned with his earlier classical works like symphonies 1-4 to the romantic with symphonies 5-9 and other works. With his last symphony (premiered in 1824) the romantic era was really launched. However, there were strong romantic indications in earlier works like the Choral Fantasy (1808 and often considered a warm up exercise for the 9th symphony) and Fidelio. Beethoven never really got both feet firmly outside of the classical era. “Modern” music is the orchestral style which follows the romantic, and is still with us.
Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and his tear-jerker violin concerto are perhaps the iconic examples of pure early romantic music. The style quickly took over, but many composers were not willing to try to write grand symphonic works because the shadow of Beethoven #9 loomed over the entire musical world. After all, he had said everything that could be said, or so the composers thought. Brahms 1st symphony took 20 years to compose, and when finished, it was criticized as being a paraphrase of Beethoven #9, and Brahms actually admitted it. It is still one of the monumental works of the romantic era. The abrupt change in the middle of the last movement from c-minor to major with the introduction of the elegiac hymn is breathtaking. It is obviously modeled after the “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven #9. One of features of the romantic era was the use of these elegiac themes. Other examples are the hymn in Sibelius’s “Finlandia,” which unfortunately has been stolen and used as a protestant hymn. And the hymn from the very late romantic, “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”, or the long hymn-like finale to Sibelius’s second symphony.
By the time of Tchaikovsky the romantic era was a bit long of tooth, and while his music shows no trending towards the modern era, he is the last of the great purely romantic composers. “Romeo and Juliet,” “Swan Lake”, the 4th symphony’s call of fate, the joyous march from the 6th symphony and the final elegy, his death scene described in the finale to the same piece, are all towering works. No matter his suicide was a result of, ah…. well let’s just skip that part.
Sibelius, while not as well thought of today as in the era between the two wars, was a bridge between the late romantic and the modern. The boundaries between these eras are not well defined as heard in Sibelius. His violin concerto is the best example of 20th century concertos, with mixed modern and romantic underpinnings. The first two symphonies are romantic, the 4th is a modern era masterpiece that has had every drop of romanticism squeezed out, and what results is a grim edifice considered by some modern critics as his only worthy piece. Strange, I don’t like it. And then the 5th returns to a nordic romanticism with the “Thor’s Hammer” theme in the finale. The modern era “Luonnatar” (1913), the creation tale from the Kalevala for soprano and orchestra is strange and so demanding for the soloist that some consider it cruel, like Finnish winters. The introductions to the violin concerto and 2nd symphony are magical – mist over a frozen lake that the listener can taste for the former, and flowers that bloom in the Spring in the latter. The andante from the 1st symphony gets to the essence of the Finns, while the rest of the work fails. The second movement of the violin concerto has the same quality, but the work soars. I guess I like this composer.
Holst for example, lived and wrote during the modern era, but his music was not fatally corrupted by modern influences. His two suites for band are the most important part of the core repertoire for band. Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958) is generally considered a modern composer, but his wonderful 2nd symphony (London) and incidental music to “The Wasps” are hardly the fingernail-on-chalkboard atrocities like much of Ives, Shostakovich, Newman, or the happily forgotten symphonies of Bernstein.
The best of the romantic era, to my taste, besides the pieces described above:
Saint-Saens– Symphony #3 (organ),Franck– Symphony in D-minor, Brahms– Alto Rhapsody, Wagner – the overtures to all of his operas, Rachmaninoff – 2nd symphony, 2nd Piano concerto, Mahler– 2nd symphony, Sibelius – En Saga, The Swan of Tounela (from Four Legends from the Kalevala), Karelia Suite, 5th Symphony, Valse Triste, Dvorak – New World symphony, Elgar– Pomp and Circumstance March #4 (not the familiar one!), Enigma Variations, Cockaine Overture
Music to avoid:
There is something about Norwegian and Swedish romantic music that is obsequious. The incidental music to “Peer Gynt” is alright, especially the moving “Death of Ase” and the somewhat trite “Morning Mood” but after that there’s nothing left. Nothing. I could add a lot more, but since this is just my opinion, I’ll let you, dear reader, make your own selections.
Again, these are just my opinions.
Next time: Band Music- Sousa, King, Gilmore, Filmore, Holst et al.
See my previous post for my deconstruction of opera and operetta.