The Festive Marches

Marcia No. 5, Viva il Re, Op. 119, PP.141.9

Marcia No. 5 exists as a copy made by Johannes Haagen in 1866 and a published version from 1862. Though the actual date of composition was likely before 1864, this copy by Haagen was originally thought to have been made shortly after Ponchielli's return to Cremona as capobanda in 1864. The date for the document has been fixed by a recently examined diary for 1866 that had been given to the museum in Paderno Ponchielli by a nephew in 1952. According to the diary, Ponchielli paid Johannes Haagen thirty lira to copy three pieces for band. Though written in the space for March 31, this date cannot be taken as precise because Ponchielli was not always careful to note items exactly.

The late date means that Haagen made these copies after having been demoted from Vicemaestro (second leader and main administrator of the band) to a mere second trumpet player. He had even auditioned for the position of solo flicorno basso and had been very rudely rejected by the audition committee that included Ponchielli. Even a pleading letter from Haagen to the band's oversight committee had been ignored. A measure of Ponchielli's humanity is the fact that the Haagen family lost no income from the father's reduction as three sons joined the father in the band under Ponchielli.

The third son, Roberto, was to become a lifelong member of the band, quickly moving from a position as a student member to a principal member in very short order, actually earning by himself more than his father ever had as Vicemaestro. Ponchielli's letter to the oversight committee is very enthusiastic even though moving Roberto Haagen to the high position increases the annual band budget by 620 lira per year.

Along with Marcia No. 6, the Polka Il Viaggio dell'Luna was included in this small group of copied scores. Any autograph copies are unknown. All three pieces were likely originally for the band in Piacenza. Aside from the interest in the copies, Haagen's separation of Ponchielli's usual single line for "Bassi" into separate lines for "Bombardone" and "Pelittone" mark these three scores as unique in the entire collection. Pietro Zappalà has recently examined Ponchielli documents held in Florence of communications with Giuseppe Clemente Pelitti (1837-1905), son of the founder Giuseppe Pelitti (1811-1865) a bassoonist and former military bandmaster who had a famous instrument manufacturing firm in Milan. In May of 1866, Ponchielli asks Pelitti to sell the band a used Pelittone in B-flat (BB-flat?) for a student in the band. An undated letter thanking Pelitti for providing a quality instrument can be found as well.

The Pelittone line is obviously intended for a true contrabass instrument. The A-flat1 is the indicator in that a BB-flat instrument is intended as that note is only available on a three-valve bombardone in E-flat or F as a factional or "false partial." Actually, there is no reason to assume that "Pelittone" automatically indicates a true contrabass as contemporary catalogs list Pelittoni in all three keys. Except for these three scores and Marcia No. 4, Ponchielli does not include a separate line for the two "Bassi." Further, he very carefully avoids writing below the range of the bass tubas in virtually all of his scores. Since only a single, incomplete set of parts still exists, whether Roberto Haagen added low notes on his own or Francesco Belforti prepared a special part cannot be known. Further, Roberto Haagen eventually becomes the principal Bombardone with responsibility for the highest bass part.


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