Amilcare Ponchielli

Canto Greco Variazioni

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Ponchielli was a famous nineteenth-century Italian opera composer whose opera, La Gioconda, with its famous “The Dance of the Hours,” is still in the international repertory. He also served as the conductor of the Cremona Civic Band, for whom he composed more than seventy original works and an equal number of transcriptions.

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Can­to Gre­co Vari­azioni
Vari­a­tions on a Greek Melody

Amil­care Ponchiel­li (1834–1886)
Mod­ern edi­tion by David Whitwell (1937–)

Date: 1869
Instru­men­ta­tion: Con­cert Band
Dura­tion: 10:30
Lev­el: 5

The date on the auto­graph score for this com­po­si­tion is giv­en as “April 16, 1869, Cromona.” In our view the Greek melody (Can­to Gre­co) must have been a pop­u­lar song in Italy ear­li­er in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. There was an ear­li­er set of vari­a­tions for band and solo clar­inet by a for­mer stu­dent of Ponchiel­li, Ernesto Cav­alli­ni (1807–1874), prin­ci­pal clar­inetist of the La Scala opera. The Cav­alli­ni set of vari­a­tions for clar­inet and band is entire­ly undis­tin­guished, and it is like­ly that Ponchiel­li heard his stu­dent per­form this work and was moved to cre­ate a more musi­cal set­ting, with vari­a­tions for all sec­tions of the band and not just for clar­inet.

As in the case of Ponchielli’s great “Vari­a­tions on the Car­ni­val of Venice,” the great com­pos­er, Ponchiel­li, cre­ates not a work for full band, but a series of vari­a­tions with many sep­a­rate small­er groups of play­ers, result­ing in much more col­or and musi­cal inter­est than a work in which every­one plays all the time. Our goal has been not to over­load the work with dou­blings, but to rep­re­sent the orig­i­nal ideas of Ponchiel­li in so far as mod­ern instru­ments can repro­duce the orig­i­nal instru­ments of the score.