The Funeral Marches

Marcia Funebre No. 8, "Colera,"Op. 136, PP.142.9

Marcia Funebre No. 8, "Colera" is another of the dated marches - August 19, 1867. 1867 is remarkable in the history of the Cremona band as it is the only year for which a full accounting of funerals is available. Accounts of the year credit Ponchielli with composing a "special" march for the obsequies for Archbishop Antonio Novasconi (1798-1867); however, his funeral was in December, so it is unlikely that a march composed in August would have been held back until four months later. Sadly, cholera was a non-discriminatory killer at this time. Not only an archbishop, but any citizen was prey to its ravages, usually the result of contaminated water.

The two bombardini in the score suggest that the post of flicorno basso had still not been filled until late 1867. Other scores from the same era include a part for flicorno basso. The extensive use of the chalmeau register in the march are contrasted with octave rises throughout the Trio. This effect alone gives this Trio a tremendous lift in spirit that exceeds almost every other march.

This is the first funeral march that does not indicate a da Capo. The March is self-contained as one might expect in a March-Trio-March configuration. The lack of a specific da Capo marking may signal the simple fact of the vagaies of live performance of ceremonial music. As the point of arrival - whether church or cemetery - nears, the band will close its part wherever it finds itself in the music. Fermatas grace the final bar of both sections, suggesting a possible Fine at either point.

Of all of the "real" funeral marches, No. 8 is this editor's candidate for the one that might enter the standard repertoire. It is restrained and uplifting, allowing an audience to experience the spirit of the nineteenth century without the accompanying traumas. A comparison would be between a painting of a Civil War battlefield and one of Matthew Brady's harrowing photographs of the body-strewn aftermath of a real battle.

Date on score: August 19, 1867

Performances: None can be ascertained

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