Ponchielli: Piano Music

Ponchielli: Piano Music
Composer Amilcare Ponchielli
Artist Ester Fusar Poli piano
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 96969
EAN code 5028421969695
Release August 2023

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About this release

Charming salon miniatures and a grand funeral march by the verismo composer of La Gioconda.

Ponchielli’s career developed during a rapidly evolving era in Italian musical culture that posterity squeezed him between Verdi on the one hand and his own students, Mascagni and Puccini on the other, though he hardly lacked for popular or academic recognition in his own time. Born in 1834, Ponchielli had written a symphony by the age of 10 and started out as a bandmaster for the wind ensembles which were centres of amateur music-making in Italian towns comparable to the choirs in the UK and Germany.

While Ponchielli belatedly won wider fame with I promessi sposi in 1874, his death from pneumonia in 1886 cut him off in his prime with only one acknowledged operatic masterpiece to his name: La Gioconda, Boito’s adaptation of a Victor Hugo story. However, he continued to write instrumental pieces at the height of his fame. Most of the pieces issued here were published in the 1870s and 1880s, and some of them are far more substantial than mere album-leaves. Yet they are hardly known at all; Riccardo Muti recorded an orchestration of the sombre and touching Elegia funebre from 1881, but Ester Fusar Poli’s new recording is the only available version of the piano original.

Even more imposing in scale is the 16-minute Funeral March which Ponchielli wrote late in 1872 to honour the passingof the publisher Francesco Lucca. However, no Ponchielli album would be complete without a version of the ‘Dance of the Hours’ immortalised by Walt Disney’s hippos in Fantasia. Between these two poles of Ponchielli’s output, Ester Fusar Poli presents a beguiling sequence of elegies, nocturnes, polkas and tone-poems, demonstrating the composer’s expressive range and deft piano writing. An extensive essay by Gabriele Galleggiante Crisafulli considers Ponchielli’s piano output in the context of his career as a whole, making this album an important contribution to our understanding of a figure who was much more than a ‘one-work composer’.

- Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886) was an Italian composer and musician known for his significant contributions to the world of opera. While he is most recognized for his opera "La Gioconda”, Ponchielli also made remarkable accomplishments in the realm of piano music.
- Born in Cremona, Italy, Ponchielli began his musical journey as a pianist and organist. His skills as a pianist were evident in his compositions, which were infused with virtuosic piano passages and expressive melodies. Ponchielli's piano works showcased his technical prowess and his ability to evoke a wide range of emotions through music.
- One of his notable piano compositions is "Dance of the Hours," which was originally written as a ballet music piece for his opera "La Gioconda." This lively and enchanting piece has become one of Ponchielli's most recognized works, often performed as a standalone piano piece. Its sparkling melodies, intricate rhythms, and dynamic contrasts demonstrate Ponchielli's mastery of the piano as an instrument of musical expression.
- In addition to "Dance of the Hours," Ponchielli composed other piano pieces such as nocturnes, character pieces, and études. His compositions often reflected the romantic style of the 19th century, characterized by rich harmonies, lyrical melodies, and dramatic contrasts.
- Played by Ester Fusar Poli, a highly talented young Italian pianist, who took lessons among others with Roberto Prosseda.

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Amilcare Ponchielli: La gioconda, Op. 9, danza delle ore in E Major – Moderato in A minor – Andante poco mosso in A Major – Allegro vivacissimo
  2. Amilcare Ponchielli: Il primo affetto, Op. 94 in D-Flat Major – Andante
  3. Amilcare Ponchielli: Amicizia, Op. 95 in B-Flat Major – Mazurka
  4. Amilcare Ponchielli: T’amerò sempre, Op. 87 in D-Flat Major – Andante
  5. Amilcare Ponchielli: Tutti ebbri, Op. 90 in D Major – Vivacissimo
  6. Amilcare Ponchielli: Elegia, add 9 in E-Flat Minor/Major – Andante, mosso e agitato
  7. Amilcare Ponchielli: Improvviso in A Major – Moderato
  8. Amilcare Ponchielli: Notturno, Op. 93 in A-Flat Major – Andantino
  9. Amilcare Ponchielli: Gavotte poudrée, Op. 91 in F Major – Allegretto moderato
  10. Amilcare Ponchielli: Elegia, Op. 92 in A Major – Andante lento
  11. Amilcare Ponchielli: Saltellina-polka, Op. 98 in E-Flat Major – Moderato-Polka
  12. Amilcare Ponchielli: Elegia funebre in onore di felice frasi, Op. 89 in B-Flat Minor – Andante flebile poco mosso
  13. Amilcare Ponchielli: La staffetta di gambolò, Op. 88 in D Major – Polka
  14. Amilcare Ponchielli: Marcia funebre per i funerali di Francesco Lucca, Op. 112 in G Minor – Assai maestoso