The Funeral Marches

Marcia Funebre No. 3, "Colpo d'apoplessia," Op. 165, PP.144.3

Marcia Funebre No. 3 is the first of what has been identified as the "forensic" marches due to its title referring to a "stroke of apoplexy" as the cause of death. The nickname is clearly written in Ponchielli's hand though its presence may indicate either his own state of mind or a long-standing tradition to name funeral marches in a grim manner to alleviate the very real stress of dealing with the grief of fellow Cremonesi. This sort of humor remains today among the ceremonial units of the military bands stationed in Washington, D.C. The United States Army Band, especially, has so many funerals that on many days two bands and a dozen trumpeters must be dispatched to deal with the many soldiers who want to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The "beethovenian" key relationship (C Minor/A-flat Major) masks a march that has a heightened sense of drama and pathos. Dotted rhythms and sigh motifs resound in almost every measure. A particularly dramatic effect occurs in the closing measures of the March where the low brass have dramatic unison five-note runs to the dominant "G." The Trio is a rather simple bel canto melody scored thickly to allow players to rest during a long procession. Another sign of the relatively early date of this march is the percussion notation where the "Rullo velato" and "Cassa [sola]"are specified in the score.

Date on score: None Given

Performances: None can be ascertained

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