‘Deprived of repose’, by the hand of the composer?
In the second movement of the Summer concerto, the abandoned shepherd fears the approaching thunder and lightning. The sonnet says: ‘the fear deprives his weary limbs of repose’ (Everett, 1996, p. 73). Vivaldi implies the image of deprived repose by several presto interjections, representing the approaching storm.
Ex. 1 The thunder motif, bars 8-9, interjects several times the melodic flow in the 2nd movement of the Summer concerto (Vivaldi, 1725).
The structure of the melodic line develops from a slightly frightened song into desperate calls for help. Each interjection of thunder triggers more and more melodic leaps and chromatic digressions.
Ex. 2 The intensifying melodic line, from the calm opening bars 5-6 (a) to desperate leaps and dissonances in bars 10-12 (b) (Vivaldi, 1725).
The steady accompaniment of the violins frames the melodic line in a rhythmical structure with an implied regularity of pulse.
Ex. 3 The regular accompaniment in the 2nd movement of the Summer concerto bb. 1-2 (Vivaldi, 1725).
The intensification of fear is expressed in the tension between the insisting regularity of the accompanying violins (swarm of flies) and the soloist (fearful shepherd) trying to free himself. Stretching time, speeding up, shaping the long notes, keeping them bare, or breaking the implied line with expressive ornaments, are all tools that Vivaldi delegates to the soloist.
Rasmussen’s tectonic approach appears similar to Vivaldi’s. The simple melodic line is interjected with a recurring thunder motif. But the process of intensification in the melodic line takes a different course. Complying with the imagery of the Sonnet (although the actual Sonnet is absent from Rasmussen’s score), the deprived repose is 'composed into' the musical structure. The melodic line hardly coincides with the metrical pulse, sneaking along the bar lines in an 'in-between' syncopated mode.
Even the regular accompaniment in the violins, which in Vivaldi’s score serves as a referential point for the agogic timing of the soloist, is in Rasmussen perceived as random reiterations of isolated figures.
Ex. 4 The syncopated melodic line and randomly structured figures of the accompaniment in the second movement of Rasmussen’s Summer concerto bb. 671-674 (Rasmussen, 2014).
Vid. 1 Comparison of compositional approaches in the 2nd movement of the Summer concerto by Rasmussen and Vivaldi, and their impact on the agency of the performer.
Rasmussen enhances the complexity of Vivaldi’s score and enables a variety of new rhythms and colours, apparent both in the new musical structure as can be read in the score, and in the resulting sound in performance. But the intervention into the embodied, expressive timing of the performers transforms the spontaneous, living interaction into a fixed choreography controlled by the musical structure. By prescribing interpretative features already at his composition desk, Rasmussen secures himself access into the domain of the performer, into a front seat of the ensemble, in-between the performers in the process of constructing an interpretation.
Having a composer in-between us was useful on many occasions, since questions could be settled immediately by this first-hand authority. But there were occasions when the composer’s presence in between us also meant being in our way. For instance, when things he 'insisted' on composing as a part of the musical structure could have happened easier and more naturally through a free interaction between performers.
The aspect of 'fixity' in interpretation was also underlined by the presence of a conductor. Despite the highly professional and flexible leadership, the centralized one-way coordination diminished the interaction within the ensemble.
In this respect, the performance of Rasmussen’s Seasons draws predominantly on a Soundist strategy. Rasmussen 'composes' the interpretation. He attempts to fix the interpretative features so that, even though they appear as being successfully incorporated into the musical structure, they will never sound as free, natural, and expressive, as when improvised by the performers in the moment of performance.