Smoke Tree at The Black House


From our garden here at The Black House—pictured is the thriving smoke tree planted in tribute to Magister Joe Netherworld—we offer Solstice greetings to all in harmony with the Earth’s seasonal changes! In the Northern Hemisphere we embrace the longest day of the year as sultry Summer begins. Those in the Southern Hemisphere mark the longest night as Winter begins its gelid dominion.

Wherever on this wondrous planet you might be, it is always a delight to celebrate the glories of nature and the abundant pleasures that life offers! Here’s to a splendid new season filled with indulgences galore!

Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, titled “The Pastoral,” was written to capture his deep love of Nature. You FANTASIA fans might recall the sumptuous pagan ancient Greek imagery conjured in that ground-breaking Disney animated masterpiece, with the music conducted by that sorcerer of sonority, Leopold Stokowski. Last week I heard a newly released recording by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra which is the freshest, most nuanced performance I’ve heard in many a year. Like Stokowski, he makes some intelligent tweaks to the orchestration (which work)—additional piccolo parts, some very convincing bird song at the end of the second movement, enthusiastic foot stomping (not too loud) in the third movement section about the “merry country folk,” and even some “sul ponticello” string playing to enhance the gusty winds and streaming rain in the 4th movement storm. When the sun comes out in the 5th movement, you’ll practically feel its glowing embrace. I find this an amazingly invigorating performance, and at the very least I invite you to listen to the opening movement—which has an almost “proto-minimalist” aesthetic in its development section. I’ll include links to all five movements as this entire performance is worth your time towards enjoying one of Beethoven’s most endearing and enduring works—a magnificent, vibrant gift so very worthy of accepting.

—Magus Peter H. Gilmore