The Band Music of Amilcare Ponchielli

  • The Glory of a Bandmaster

    The Glory of a Bandmaster

The Golden Baton

When Italian artist/musician/poet Vespasiano Bignami (1841-1929) drew his cartoon of the overturned kepi of the band of Cremona, he gave it two captions - "The Glory of a Bandmaster" and "The Golden Baton." The image is Amilcare Ponchielli's baton, taking root in the soil in the kepi of the capobada and becoming a laurel tree - the tree of gold. Thus did he memorialize the golden age of Ponchielli's tenure as bandmaster in Cremona (1864-1874). This site will present the forgotten music that was produced by Ponchielli that brought joy and comfort to his fellow Cremonesi. The glory of his band has been lost, but his music remains. It is the purpose of this site to present critically prepared editions of this music, beloved to three generations of Cremonesi but lost due to time and the tragedies of war, depression, and societal change. Though long famous as an operatic composer, Ponchielli is gradually becoming known internationally for his inventive, virtuosic works for the wind band.

Associazione Centro Studi Amilcare Ponchielli

Friends of Amilcare Ponchielli have just started an organization to renew interest in Cremona's great composer and native son. Its website may be found here.

How to Use This Website

Each work is presented in three basic formats - ACROBAT PDF, MP3, and MusicXML. In the PDF you will see a modern transcription of an original score, most of which are autographs. The MP3 will enable you to hear each piece with an instrumentation appropriate to Ponchielli's era played with VST sounds. The MusicXML files will allow anyone to import the score into one of several notation programs and have the score to work on themselves. The MusicXML files are compressed as many security systems will not allow direct download XML files.

Many works will have a "modern" band version as well as an original instrumentation. This will also be reflected in the PDF, MP3, and MusicXML offerings.

Finally, there is a great deal of information about the men for whom Ponchielli wrote this music. Individual, talented musicians enable Ponchielli to compose some truly wonderful and beyond difficult music. In fact, there was a core of about five musicians who spent twelve years with Ponchielli as their leader. Under Ponchielli's inspiring example, they created a thirst for music in what was, in lay terms, a small, agricultural city on the banks of the Po river.

The Photo in the Header

This photograph is from 1884, when Raffaele Coppola (1841-1910) had succeeded Ponchielli as capobanda. Coppola stands in the center without an instrument in his hand. Several members of the band from Ponchielli's era are in the photo, most notably solo tuba, Roberto Haagen, who is at the far left. Also in the picture is Achille Bissocoli who was also Vicemaestro for Ponchielli.

Site information

This site has been maintained by Henry Howey, Professor of Music at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He is responsible for its content and policies.

Site Updates

All of the dances are now available, though only for the original instrumentation. AS "music for dancing" was half of the contracted responsibilities for Piacenza, their number and quality are wonderful.

All of the virtuoso solo arrangements for clarinet are also loaded, though by arrangement with University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Fred Ormand they are only available here as an ACROBAT PDF and MP3. They are available for modern as original band from him.

Shortly, Ponchielli's suites of music based on opera scores will be available, though only for the original instrumentation.

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Sam Houston State University
1751 Avenue I, Huntsville, TX 77340
Phone: 936-294-1360

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