Rasmussen’s hindered movements in a summer heat
In Section V3aT1 above, I analysed the gestural representation of languid movements caused by the summer heat in the opening of the Summer concerto. I pointed out that Vivaldi’s contradictory tempo designation Allegro non molto resonates with the imagery in the Sonnet, which suggests both a wish to move and a hindrance caused by the heat.
By changing the tempo designation to Lento, Rasmussen dissolves the implied contradiction. Instead, he creates a more complex musical structure and 'composes' the languidness of the movements, through an irregularity of the rhythmical patterns (See Example 1).
Ex. 1 Summer, bars 1-4 in Vivaldi’s Summer concerto (Vivaldi, 1725) in comparison with Rasmussen’s opening of the same concerto, bars 467-473 (Rasmussen, 2014).
Vid. 1 The opening of the Summer concerto in Rasmussen’s Le Quattro stagioni.
While Vivaldi deliberately delegates the expressive timing to the performer, giving cues through the Sonnet’s imagery enhanced by subtle hints in the musical structure and the tempo designation, Rasmussen takes full control in the act of composition. He omits Vivaldi’s Sonnet and poetic captions from his score, changes the tempo designation from Allegro non molto to Lento, and specifies the timing in exact rhythmical patterns. This leads to a deactivation of the performer’s imagination. Do not mind the poetic imagery… play the rhythms, dynamics and the right tempo, and the imagery will be clear to the audience.
This modernist conception of 'exact execution, not interpretation', advocated by those such as Stravinsky, may be justified in the other Rasmussen scores that we performed with Concerto Copenhagen, but less so in the Seasons. The narrative and poetic imagery is so ingrained in the body of HIP performers, that playing simply sul ponticello will not substitute for shivering with cold, and molto crescendo up to ff will never have the same impact as Orrido vento .
My analysis of the video material reveals that Rasmussen succeeds in the translation of the languid mood through the more complex rhythmical patterns. The resulting sound is captivating, where the added voices and the novel rhythmic complexity contribute to the implied imagery. What is lacking is the gestural interaction between the performers. There is no physical hindrance enacted, no pauses spontaneously prolonged. The sonic imagery is also not expressed through movement in performance.