• The Glory of a Bandmaster

    The Glory of a Bandmaster

Concerto per cornetto di varij autore, Op. 198, PP.136.1

The Concerto per cornetto di varij autore has an intriguing subtitle - "by various composers." Presently, the only prior work that can be definitely identified is the opening pedal from the overture to Vincenzo Bellini's (1801-1835) penultimate opera Beatrice di Tenda (1833). [See the setting of themes from Beatrice by Mirco for a comparison.] What likely drew Ponchielli to it is the pulsing pedal that he had already used in II Convegno and that he would adopt in the Concerto per flicorno basso. The other various composers will need someone with Ponchielli's encyclopedic knowledge of opera to designate. One should not, however, absolutely dismiss Ponchielli altogether as the three variations and final Allegro are undoubtedly by him. There is an unusual note at the end of the score that he had made a "riduzione," i.e., a "transcription" here. Perhaps this undesignated series of "familiar" melodies was a source of pleasure to his opera-mad audience. Also, the programs, up to this time, always made it a point to give Ponchielli credit for any arrangements. This practice all but disappears after this concerto's premiere.

The score date suggests that it closely followed the composition of the trumpet concerto. Its two performances also suggest that it was not a favorite of Ponchielli's or his audience. The intended soloist must have been vicemaestro and solo cornetist, Achille Bissocoli.

While this is the least famous or played of the solo works, it is more than worthy due to its remarkable variations and the wonderful operatic third section. The finale must be given a cautionary note: The acoustics of a particular hall may change the brilliant flourishes into smears. Thus, a wise soloist will prepare to play at a slower tempo in order to accommodate the realities of performance.

There is one major alteration to the two scores from the autograph. The theme, three variations, and the three interludes (now refrains) all are notated to begin with pickup notes. Ponchielli notates this only in the theme in the autograph. In retrospect, this concerto lays out the groundwork for the Concerto per flicorno basso. A solo part may be found here.

Date on score: Wednesday, July 10, 1867

Performances: Sunday, September 22, 1867, Piazza Cavour; Sunday, May 7, 1871, Piazza Garibaldi.

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