In the last few years, Ponchielli’s work has been enjoying a marked reappraisal among musicians and scholars. In the last two decades this renaissance has undoubtedly been due to the continual rediscovery of Ponchielli manuscripts which have considerably expanded the list of his works. This rediscovery also saw musicians pay growing attention to Ponchielli’s works, with a number of recordings being published in the last few years dedicated to unpublished genres. Now an interesting group of vocal chamber works for song and piano has come to light, recuperated from autograph manuscripts and from some posthumous publications of the late-nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries. The romanza for voice and piano accompaniment was quite frequently performed in the drawing room, often with rather cloying subjects (unhappy love, the death of the beloved, hopeful love), but such as to offer Ponchielli the opportunity to show an elegiac vein of remarkable melodic and expressive intensity. The chamber destination of the works does nothing to diminish the musical value or the technical difficulties of these arias (wholly comparable to operatic arias); indeed, they require a sure command of technique and interpretation and a vocal extension that often ranges beyond the normal limits of the register (especially in the lower section).
As well as vocal chamber music, instrumental music is also a rich genre for rediscovery in Ponchielli’s ample production. Here we offer three significant examples, all for piano solo: a transcription of the orchestral prelude to the recitative Ov’è desso? from the Cantata a Gaetano Donizetti, which Ponchielli wrote in Bergamo in 1875 on the occasion of the translation of Donizetti’s mortal remains to the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore; finally, two original piano works, the polka La Staffetta di Gambalò, published in 1881 in the style of band dancing pieces that was so popular at the time, and the splendid Elegia, published posthumously in 1906, where Ponchielli’s melodic, sentimental vein emerges in all its beauty.