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Name of Work

Ponchielli, Amilcare (1834-1886)
Il Convegno (The Get Together) Divertimento for two clarinets and strings

Movements:
Allegro
Andante sostenuto
Allegretto scherzoso

Performances:


Oct 08, 2006



Eddie Daniels, Clarinet
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello
Bradley Opland, Double bass


Oct 09, 2006



Eddie Daniels, Clarinet
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello
Bradley Opland, Double bass
Jasmine Lin, Violin

PONCHIELLI-Il Convegno, Divertimento for Two Clarinets and Strings

Composed in 1857.

BACKGROUND
Though Amilcare Ponchielli’s modern reputation rests on a single work — the grand opera La Gioconda, source of the famous Dance of the Hours — he was a highly regarded musician of varied talents and great promise who enjoyed considerable prestige in his own day. Ponchielli was born on August 1, 1834 in the hamlet of Paderno Fasolaro (later renamed Paderno Ponchielli in his honor), not far from Cremona. His father, a shopkeeper and the organist of the village church, gave the boy his early musical instruction to such good effect that Amilcare was admitted, tuition-free, to the Milan Conservatory at the age of nine. He studied at the school for the next eleven years, winning prizes in several fields and composing instrumental and vocal pieces, including an operetta in collaboration with three fellow pupils. Despite his outstanding academic achievements, Ponchielli did not pursue his professional career in the major Italian cities, but returned to Cremona following his graduation in 1854 to become a church organist and assistant conductor at the local theater. He learned about practical operatic stagecraft by conducting performances in Cremona, and then cobbled a libretto from Manzoni’s epochal novel I Promessi Sposi, with which he made his debut as a composer in that city in 1856. I Promessi Sposi had a good local success, but stirred little interest for productions elsewhere; two further operas (Bertrando dal Bormio and La Savoiarda) fared no better. In 1861, Ponchielli took a job conducting the National Guard band in Piacenza, and produced there another opera (Roderico Re Dei Goti), which closed after a single performance. Ponchielli returned to Cremona in 1864 to lead the local municipal band and conduct operas and ballets at the Teatro Concordia. His aspirations to enter the wider world of Italian music were fueled when he applied with seeming success for a teaching position at the Milan Conservatory, but intrigue at the crucial moment gave the job to the composer-conductor Franco Faccio (who is best remembered as the conductor of the premiere of Verdi’s Otello at La Scala in 1887). Success at last smiled upon Ponchielli with the triumphant performance of his much-revised I Promessi Sposi at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan in December 1872. Two months later, La Scala gave his ballet Le Due Gemelle to such acclaim that the distinguished firm of Ricordi began publishing his music and promoting its performance. In 1874, Ricordi commissioned from him I Lituani, an opera for La Scala with a text by Aida librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni. Ponchielli’s greatest triumph came two years later with La Gioconda, on a libretto fashioned from Hugo’s Angelo, Tyran de Padoue by Arrigo Boito. The opera’s international success prompted his belated appointment to the faculty of the Milan Conservatory in 1880, where his pupils included Puccini and Mascagni. He also served as Maestro di Cappella at S. Maria Maggiore in Bergamo from 1881 to 1886. Ponchielli authored two more operas, neither of which could recreate the sensation of La Gioconda, before his premature death in Milan in 1886.

Ponchielli’s greatest creative efforts went into his dozen operas, but he also produced many ballets (only three survive), four cantatas, sacred and secular vocal music, piano pieces, a symphony and chamber music, as well as more than eighty works for the bands at Piacenza and Cremona that exemplify the genres with which such ensembles became integral facets of Italian community life in those days before broadcasts and recordings: quicksteps, funeral marches, concerted pieces, dances, fantasies on themes from popular operas, arrangements of symphonic works.

MUSIC
Il Convegno (The Get Together) for two clarinets and piano was composed in 1857, soon after Ponchielli left the Milan Conservatory and returned to Cremona; it was revised and fitted with an accompaniment for band sometime after he became bandmaster in Piacenza four years later, and orchestrated in 1873. The work is in three sections, linked by cadenzas and other connective tissue: a genial Allegro nicely balanced between a tender opening theme and more spirited figurations; a duet of operatic lyricism that gathers increasingly elaborate fioratura as its unfolds; and a showy Allegretto scherzoso that evidences the virtuosity of Ponchielli’s bandsmen.

Program Notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Performance date: October 8 & 9, 2006



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