(Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Inventione)
for Nigel Kennedy and the Orchestra of Life
Sonnet in E Major (Spring)
allegro – largo – allegro
Ushered in by a noodling guitarist,
the birds are in full swing; for the soloist,
with this music in his veins, it’s a lark.
In his Villa shirt he chirps and chirrups
while tight, bright buds unfurl to improvise
a canopy of leaves. His supple wrist
whips up a storm then settles for reprise.
A trance … he drifts off, sprawled under the trees
among daisies and meadow buttercups,
with a sampled, softly murmuring breeze
and the viola's monotonous bark.
Bring on the cheerleaders, goat skins and pipes,
revelry that breaks into yelps and whoops …
The dogs are out – Yeah! A bump of the fist.
Sonnet in G Minor (Summer)
allegro non molto – adagio – presto
Scorched pines. A sweltering stasis. The heat
has pressed the air almost to silence. Note
follows note like stuttering beads of sweat
but there – in the bow's quick tilt – the cuckoo,
followed by a warbling dove and the trill
of the finch, those fingers thrillingly close.
Breezing triplets flutter against a beat
the north wind blasts to hell – and there’ll be more.
A fly-infested lull, a fractious growl
itching for a livewire scare. So why not –
with a stack of Marshalls to hand – let loose
the thunder and lightning for real? … One ... two
mississippi three mississippi four …
The cornfields are all trashed by golf-ball hail.
Sonnet in F Major (Autumn)
allegro – adagio molto – allegro
Jazz trumpet? It’s a party! – the harvest
gathered in. The drinking is in earnest
with flagons of claret and ale on tap;
they drink at the gallop, drink till they drop,
nod off ... only to get that second wind
and party on full pelt into the night.
Passed out, they enter a parallel realm –
a kaleidoscopic haze in which time
is an elasticated, weightless dream
in the autumnal cool – sleeping till dawn
when it’s hip flask, hunting horn, horse and hound.
One poor terrified animal must run
for its life – their sport. It gives up the fight.
Job done, they saddle up and trot back home.
Sonnet in F Minor (Winter)
allegro non molto – largo – allegro
Frost ... snow ... layers of ice. The wind has bite.
We’re shivering in its grip, a cold snap
like nothing we’ve known ... brrrrrr ... We run, and thump
our numbed, gloved hands together, stop and stamp
our snow-deep frozen boots on frozen earth.
Later, feet up, in a chair by the hearth,
I hear the pizzicato rain outside,
a soporific, intimate reprieve
before we’re back on the shifting ice, slide
and slip with skittering strings that believe
they can negotiate the cracks. The slap-
stick of our fall is what hurries our flight,
and if the wind howls through the house despite
battening it down, it's a shrill delight.
(literal translations of the Four Seasons text provided by Anoushka Munden)