94. Memorial Masterpieces for Band

Because wind instruments are more practical for performance outdoors than string instruments, the history of the band includes a great many short works designed to be used for the final rites of important persons, such as the Triebensee Trauermarsch written in honor of his employer, the emperor of Austria-Hungry.

Apart from this repertoire there are some very important major compositions for band composed as memorial works and not intended for actual ceremonial use. Three of these we have already included in this series of essays, the great Bochsa Requiem in honor of Louis XVI and Marie Antonette, for band and chorus, the Wagner Trauermusik, in honor of Weber, and the Berlioz Symphony for Band, honoring citizens killed in the Revolt of 1830.

Amilcare Ponchielli (1834–1886), Elegy on the Death of Garibaldi

To this memorial repertoire we must add one of the most important works in the band repertoire, the Ponchielli Elegy on the Death of Garibaldi. 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 70 original works and an equal number of transcriptions.

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882), whose popularity, his skill at rousing the common people, and his military exploits are all credited with making the modern unification of Italy possible. He traveled widely, including a six-month residence in New York City in 1850–1851.

This composition, written Garibaldi’s honor, is filled with dramatic effects, some almost extraordinary, while the character in general is operatic. It is very musical, with haunting melodies and yet with some brass sections of a difficulty to be a challenge to the best players today. I regard this composition to be one of the very best works of the band repertoire and I have conducted it many times with great success.

Ponchielli, Marcia Funèbre in honor of Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873) was a much-loved Italian poet, whose I Promessi Sposi (1827) became a symbol of the Italian Risorgimento and contributed to the development of a unified Italian language. Among the other musical compositions composed in his honor was the great Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi.

Ponchielli, Marcia Funèbre alla Memoria di mia Padre

The Marcia funèbre is in honor of his father, a shopkeeper and village organist.

Giuseppe Filippa, Marcia funèbre per il trasporto delle ceneri dell’immortale Maestro Gioachino da Rossini da Parigi nel Tempio di S. Croce in Firenze

This original band composition was composed for the return of the remains of Rossini to Florence, Italy. Compared with the Wagner Trauermusik, this Marcia funèbre is much more intense, dramatic and operatic. I regard this as a very fine composition.

Rossini died in 1868 and his service was performed in the Trinity Church in Paris, with his own Stabat Mater being sung by the chorus of the Conservatory. He was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris near the remains of Chopin.

But the Italians wanted their great countryman back and so in 1887 his remains were transported to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, in a ceremony which attracted six thousand people. There he lies near the remains of Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo.

Giuseppe Filippa was born in Savigliano, Italy in 1836 and died in 1905 in Pesaro. During his life he was known primarily as a performer and teacher of the trumpet and he published several volumes of progressive studies for cornetto or flicorno in B-flat during the 1880s [Milano: F. Lucca]. His son, Giacomo Filippa, became a well-known violinist.

As a composer we know of only a few songs and music for the church, a brass quintet and the curious Walzer alla memoria di Dante Alighieri. His only composition which remains in the repertoire today is the Marcia funèbre, which is still performed by civic bands in Italy.

The Filippa really impressed me … it is a work I have to play.

Leon Bly, Sept. 29, 1991
Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgart School of Music

Fromental Halévy, Marche heroïque (1840) for the return of the remains of Napoleon to Paris for band

Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy (27 May 1799 – 17 March 1862) was a French composer remembered mainly for his opera La Juive, which was praised highly by Mahler and Wagner. After studying at the Conservatoire with Cherubini he became an active choral conductor, composer and was elected to the Institut de France in 1836. His son-in-law and former student was the composer Georges Bizet.

The Marche heroïque was composed for the great occasion when the remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris on 14 December 1840. A great procession carried the remains across Paris in the fashion of the great processions of the French Revolution. Indeed one of the features of this Marche are long pauses filled only by the sound of a resonating gong, which was the central feature of one of the great compositions of the French Revolution, the March lugubre of 1790 by Gossec. One newspaper at that time reported on the use of the gong as, “the notes, detached from one another, break the heart, pulling at ones insides.” Another newspaper wrote that the sound of the gong “filled the soul with religious terror.” These accounts reflect the fact that the large gong had never before been heard in Paris and this great public sensation caused it to be imitated in later band compositions, such as the Requiem for Louis XIV (1815) by Bochsa.

One observer of this solemn procession was the famous writer, Victor Hugo, who gave his impressions as follows.

The whole possesses a grandeur. It is an enormous mass, gilded all over, whose stages rise in a pyramid atop the four huge gilded wheels that bear it…. The actual coffin is invisible. It has been placed in the base of the carriage, which diminishes the emotion. This is the carriage’s grave defect. It hides what one wants to see: that which France has reclaimed, what the people are awaiting, what all eyes were looking for—the coffin of Napoleon.

Wilhelm Wieprecht, Trauermarsch

Wilhelm Wieprecht (1802–1872) certainly personified the growth and development of military music in Germany during the first half of the nineteenth century and in his desire to improve the repertoire of the military band, he composed a large number of original compositions, not to mention numerous arrangements, for his concerts in Berlin.

Berlioz, who was touring Germany, heard a performance of this composition and mentioned it in his autobiography,

The concert ended with a very fine and well-written funeral march, composed by Wieprecht, and played with only one rehearsal!

I have had reports from performances of this Trauermarsch from Wisconsin to Australia and everyone seems to find it an exceptional composition.

Wieprecht, Festmarsch on Themes of Beethoven

Between 1840 and 1860, a period when orchestras were just making a transition from being private aristocratic ensembles to becoming ensembles giving concerts before the public, the bands in Europe were performing outdoor concerts before thousands of listeners. Many ordinary listeners first heard the music of Beethoven and Wagner in such concerts. In the case of Beethoven entire symphonies were transcribed for band and sometimes two symphonies would be heard on a single concert!

This Festmarsch was composed as a memorial to Beethoven by Wieprecht. It is an original composition by Wieprecht but it shares themes from the Piano Concerto in E-flat (Nr. 5) by Beethoven.

We might mention here, the Notturno, Op. 8 by Wieprecht, for soli piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones and percussion. This is an outstanding work with considerable taste which makes a nice programming companion with the Gounod Petite Symphony.

These works are available through the amazing catalog by Maxime’s Music at concertbandmusicstore.com.