The Band Music of Amilcare Ponchielli

The Golden Baton

The Golden BatonWhen 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 capobanda 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. The files have been made using the notation application FINALE. If you want to use a MusicXML file with another application, use the PDF score as a template as all of the information in the file might not be read accurately.

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 who enabled 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

At this moment, the site has accomplished the goals set forth originally in 2005. Recent discoveries have led me to begin an expansion in the are of Original Virtuoso Music for Brass. Please check back from time to time as this will be a major addition to this site.

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

The site is now complete as originally intended; however, updates to the sound files will begin as new 64-bit technology has enabled even better digital renderings of this remarkable repertoire.