II Convegno

II Convegno - Divertimento a due clarinetti, Op. 76, PP.141.4

II Convegno is the only piece that Ponchielli recycled into three different media. Composed for two clarinets and piano before 1857, it was published by the firm of F. Lucca. Licia Sirch noted the additional existence of several band transcriptions, though their sources remained unverified. Fred Ormand, Professor Emeritus of Clarinet at The University of Michigan, prepared a wind band version of II Convegno based on an "original orchestra" version and orchestral score in the Milan Conservatory, which is an acknowledged copy. Professor Ormand also consulted a score from the library in Parma as well as some reference to the score found in Rome.

In a recent visit to the State Archives in Cremona, census documents for both Alessandro Peri (1814-??) and Massamiliano Sacchi (1812-1859) were found. Peri was later solo clarinet of the band before and during Ponchielli's tenure as capomusica. Peri's death cannot be presently known as he leaves Cremona to Milan in 1885. Sacchi, on the other hand, is listed as studente and dies in (likely) one of the several cholera epidemics that plagued Cremona's history. With both men nearly a generation older than Ponchielli, his heartfelt thanks in the dedication are understandable.

In 2004, I made a database of all of the advertised concerts of the Banda nazionale in Cremona. One of the first discoveries were six performances of II Convegno between 1865 and 1873. A search of the Biblioteca statale in Cremona brought forth an autograph score in which Ponchielli also made a correction in the first solo clarinet part in measure 150. A conversation with Italian clarinet virtuoso, Corrado Giuffredi, led to the discovery of a second score in Parma that is a twin to the "Cremona" score. The author of this copy can now be fully identified as Vittorio Franchini, A-flat clarinetist in both Piacenza and Cremona bands, who returned to Parma in 1873 as Ponchielli left Cremona. The two scores are identical in score order and pagination. One very important change that Ponchielli had made between the autograph and the two band scores is the re-voicing of the second clarinet from measure 265 to the end. Ponchielli may have noticed that the original "chamber" voicing centered in the "throat register"of the clarinet was not wise for reasons of balance and projection in the piazzas of Piacenza.

In the summer of 2009 I decided to visit the orchestral score cited in the thematic catalog. Already acknowledged as a copy, a host of questions arose as the transcription process advanced. As a matter of interest, he remembered another set of images that Dr. Sirch had sent him shortly after she became the librarian of the Milan Conservatory. The score was an autograph; however, it was a "sketch" undated except for a "65" (1865?) on the margin of one fasicle. Further, several errors in the "orchestra copy" (also held in the conservatory library) became glaringly obvious. The most severe occurred in measures 127-130 where Ponchielli had changed the timpani and horn transposition to the key of D in place of E-flat. He even noted it himself, though his erstwhile copyist did not catch the error, making one wonder if this "copy" score was posthumous. The orchestral version may have never been performed in his lifetime. There are numerous other "sketch" items that require examination of the band and piano scores to create a final version.

After considerable study and consultation, the modern version that has resulted represents the best information from the (now) six sources: the autograph and published piano version, the "copy" and "autograph" orchestra versions, and the two band scores. None of the ensemble versions seem to have carefully or completely notated solo parts due to Ponchielli's exceptional musical skills and need for rapid score production. Thus, the solo parts (as Ponchielli and his soloists likely did) must be based on the solo parts from the piano version. All four ensemble scores are bereft of any degree of dynamic and articulation detail, while the piano version is very detailed in these matters. Thus, the ensemble scores (and especially the band scores) are useful mainly for voicing and instrumentation.

The critical edition of the band score reflects a second amalgam of these sources. The solo parts are from the piano version and a substantial portion of the dynamics and tempo markings. All but a few of the accompaniment articulations are also from the piano score. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the band score is Ponchielli's evolving approach to the opening of the piece. Both piano sources and the two band scores begin with a descending E-flat arpeggio. The orchestral "copy" omits this while the sketch assigns this to the first E-flat horn and fails to correct an error in the first note of the first horn. In the "Cremona" band score, the arpeggio is crossed out as well as a tuba pedal that is not in the "Parma" band score. The "Parma" score disagrees with the "Cremona" score in several places. The Cremona score must be considered the final word.

The percussion parts are very sparse. A convention of the era was the addition of a soft roll on a bass drum to pedals when pedals were being performed without the presence of timpani. Sousa's band used this all of the time. Though un-notated, it may be an authentic practice to add it to the appropriate measures in Il Convegno.

My colleagues at the university have kindly given two performances in 2014. Patricia Card and Dmytro Perevertailenko are the clarinet soloists, accompanied by Ilonka Rus on piano and the Symphonic Band led by Brian Gibbs.


A Piacenza Score?


 The image to the left is from the last page of the "Parma" score. It is a list of eighteen players needed for performance, not counting the two soloists. There are no percussion in the eighteen. Part of the reason that this is likely a "Piacenza" score is the doubling of a cornet and a flugelhorn on the same line. Among the letters between Ponchielli and the mayor of Piacenza preserved in Piacenza's archive are several in which he urges this combination as an improvement to the 24-member ensemble.

In the Piacenza-based scores Ponchielli uses an irregular order of instrumentation: E-flat clarinet, two B-flat clarinets, two horns, cornet, flugelhorn, two flicorno bassi, two trumpets, three trombones, two bombardini,and two tubas. This edition has placed them in the order of all other scores. Both the order and instrumentation mark this as (perhaps) one of the first major works Ponchielli prepared for the band in Piacenza.

Date on score: None Given

Performances: Wednesday, November 29, 1865, Piazza Cavour; Sunday, May 3, 1868, Piazza Cavour; Thursday, September 16, 1869, Piazza Cavour; Thursday, June 23, 1870, Piazza Cavour; Sunday, November 20, 1870, Piazza Cavour; Thursday, December 8, 1872, Piazza Cavour; Thursday, June 23, 1870, Piazza Cavour; Monday, September 8, 1873, Piazza Roma.

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