The Funeral Marches

Marcia Funebre No. 2, Op. 173, PP.144.12

Marcia Funebre No. 2 was composed early in 1866 in Cremona. It is the only march that specifies two bombardinos instead of the usual flicorno basso and bombardino. While there are normally two performers on the bombardino part, the band roster of June, 1866 has no ficorno basso named. In an ominous premonition, the name of anyone who officially held that position in the band remains anonymous to this day. Another clue to the 1866 date are the single cornet and fugelhorn parts and the absence of the part for the student-performed E-flat cornet. A concordance on the band's roster after the January, 1865 auditions has recently come to light in which Ponchielli's direct nomination of musicians from the Piacenza band were agreed to by the audition/oversight committee. In fact, the only real differences between this march and Marcia Funebre No. 1 are the addition of the fugelhorn part and the second bombardino. The pair of bombardini means that this march is from 1866 when the post of flicorno basso remained open. The muffled (velato) snare drum (field drum) and the "bass drum only" instructions are also repeated.

The introductory unison B-flat fanfare delays the crushing E-flat minor chord of the full band. The instruction "tutti vibrato assai" suggests that the ensemble-wide vibrato was not a norm though many associate such a device with "Italian" bands as a matter of course, viz., the "Godfather" movies. The dotted rhythms and ostinati associated with funeral marches are established immediately with a more independent percussion part than usual. The melody is far more sinuous than the first march. The next section is marked "tutta forza maestoso" suggesting a grand occasion. This stands in stark contrast to subsequent marches that betray more of a sense of community with the mourners. There is a dramatic fortissimo descending chromatic line in the clarinets that suggest more opera than funeral. Further, the sinuous melody returns, an event that was not in the first march. The internal Fineis anticlimactic.

The trio displays one of Ponchielli the organist's favorite textures - the pedal. It is played in unison by the flugelhorn and second bombardino as an interior voice. Another oft-neglected device is re-scoring the opening melody on its repeat. As time and interest conflicted, Ponchielli will come to rely upon repeat signs over a "through-composed" orchestration. Both "Trio" and "Maggiore" mark the major section. Ponchielli normally chooses one or the other. Like other earlier marches, Marcia Funebre No. 2 treats the march and its trio as independent standing sections. In this regard he remains conservative formally as he concocts new melodies. Ponchielli rarely uses the "dal segno" marking. There is no exception here as he marks an "A" and directs the repeat to it.

Date on score: None Given

Performances: None can be ascertained

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