The Band Music of Amilcare Ponchielli
The Glory of a Bandmaster
This may be Ponchielli's first march for band; in fact, it may have originally been for organ. Among its hallmarks as an early march is the placement of the Fine at the end of the Trio. Whether this was fully intentional or whether Ponchielli simply was unaware of the March-Trio-March convention cannot be known. In any event, the final cadence is similar to many of the other "correct" 6/8 marches in the collection. Victor Emmanuel II did visit Cremona in September of 1860, thus this march may have been composed for the band in Cremona. The instrumentation, however, reflects Ponchielli's practice in scoring for the band in Piacenza. The surviving autograph may be a copy (or even a re-working) of a piece composed in 1860. Further, the impression this piece may have made on representatives of Piacenza who were in Cremona for the king's visit may have been impressed and supported Ponchielli's application for the position in Piacenza in 1861.
There are several indications of the score's early composition. Ponchielli indicates that the three actual clarinet parts are to be divided into "1, 2/3, and 4/5" part assignments. Later scores simply indicate three parts with divisi possible, especially in the third part. There are semi-independent cornet and fluglehorn parts and three horns on a single line. The flicornobasso (baritone) is easier than the bombardino (euphonium) part. This will eventually be reversed in future settings. Three trombone parts are indicated, but most of the third trombone part doubles the part for the basses. Later it seems to provide a bass to the horns and harmonic/rhythmic trumpet parts.
The percussion parts indicate only snare and bass drum; however, anyone who performs these pieces must remember that Ponchielli always relied upon the bass drum/cymbal player to provide an artful part for the cymbals. Further, the snare drummer likely "realized" his part by adding rudimantal ornaments from his experience as a drummer boy for the Guardia nazionale.
As noted in the page of festive marches, the proper tempo for these pieces is M.M. 100. This is the passo normale of the Italian army and most other European armies as well.As with most of these scores there is a lack of articulations and even dynamic signs. The rationale for this and the seeming unvaried timbre of the entire ensemble was a matter of performance practice, i.e., Ponchielli would adjust these matters from the podium, never really performing the work twice in the same manner.
Please remember that the "modern" band score is meant to reflect the sort of updating that Belforti and his successors had to do as the instrumentaion (technology) of the band changed over the succeding fifty years. A recently discovered set of parts from the Coppola era even adds a timpani part to one of Ponchielli's opera scene transcriptions. One important convention of the modern edition is the delineation between brass and woodwinds. In this regard, Ponchielli's original timbres are maintained throughout.
This is one of Ponchielli's easiest marches and is an excellent choice for a young band. However, one should always bear in mind that the little band from Piacenza was the source of some of the Cremona band's principal players. These were the performers who shaped much of Ponchielli's perception of what was possible with the wind band.
Performances: None can be ascertained.