The Band Music of Amilcare Ponchielli
The Glory of a Bandmaster
Marcia Funebre No. 4 is one of a few marches that can be dated from the score. The likelihood of anyone besides copyist Francesco Belforti ever seeing this score can be found on the title page where Ponchielli writes "dedicata all'anima dell'autore quando creperà! - dedicated to the soul of the composer when he kicks the bucket!." In spite of the newly reconstituted band, Ponchielli may not have been enjoying himself. Another quirk is his self identification as the "instructor" of the banda nazionale. In spite of having a handpicked ensemble since the auditions of January, 1865, the band still included four members of the Haagen clan with the formerly troublesome father, Johannes, in the trumpet section. Already identified as "No. 4," Ponchielli further adds Marcia Lugubre on the first score page.
In contrast to many of the other scores, Ponchielli takes particular care in score indications with regard to dynamics, articulations, even note lengths. Were one to conduct a course on copying Ponchielli's scores, this would be an excellent first project. In the case of the percussion, Ponchielli notes the snare and bass drum parts on the first page of score and later reminds the bass drum/cymbal player that only the bass drum is to be used. The third trombone and bombardone (E-flat tuba) are to share the same line. The line that is normally referred to as Bassi has the notation Pelittoni e Bombardoni by which Ponchielli is referring to BB-flat and F tubas. Another sign of close attention to detail is the expressive marking "spegnendosi - dying down" in the final measures of the Minor section of the march that is unique to this piece.
The scoring in the Trio again reflects the possibility for Ponchielli to "orchestrate on the fly" as there is a simpler though thicker texture. In the case of a longer than usual procession to the graveyard, part of the band can rest during the Trio. In spite of Ponchielli's seeming despondency noted on the the title page, the sixteenth-note filigrees in the clarinets (normal) and the flicornobasso/bombardone (not so normal) parts suggest a capable if not virtuosic band on the march.
Performances: None can be ascertained