Amilcare Ponchielli

From Wind Repertory Project
Amilcare Ponchielli


Amilcare Ponchielli (31 August 1834, Paderno Fasolaro, Italy – 16 January 1886, Milan, Italy) was an Italian composer, mainly of operas.

Ponchielli won a scholarship at the age of nine to study music at the Milan Conservatory, writing his first symphony by the time he was ten years old. Two years after leaving the conservatory he wrote his first opera, and it was as an opera composer that he eventually found fame.

In his early career, Ponchielli wrote considerably for wind band. He gained much experience as the bandmaster in Piacenza and Cremona, arranging and composing over 200 works for wind band. Notable among his "original" compositions for band are the first-ever concerto for euphonium (Concerto per flicorno basso, 1872), fifteen variations on the Neapolitan song Carnevale di Venezia, and a series of festive and funeral marches that resound with the pride of the newly unified Italy and the private grief of his fellow Cremonese.

The turning point was the big success of the revised version of I promessi sposi in 1872, which brought him a contract with the music publisher G. Ricordi & Co. and the musical establishment at the Conservatory and at La Scala. The ballet Le due gemelle (1873) confirmed his success. His best known opera is La Gioconda, first produced in 1876 and revised several times. The version that has become so popular today was first given in 1880. Disney made Dance of the Hours’' from this work famous in the movie Fantasia.

After La Gioconda, Ponchielli wrote two monumental operas, Il figliuol prodigo (Milan, Teatro alla Scala, December 26, 1880) and Marion Delorme. Although neither met with the same success, both exerted great influence on the composers of the rising generation, like Puccini, Mascagni and Giordano.

In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Cathedral, and from the same year he was a professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where among his students were Puccini, Mascagni and Emilio Pizzi.

Works for Winds