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(1834 - 1886)


for solo woodwind quartet
(flute, oboe, Eb clarinet and Bb clarinet)
and orchestra

arranged and orchestrated by Mark Starr

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The Gran quartetto concertante by Amilcare Ponchielli is sui generis.  It is not a concerto -- similar to Ludwig Spohr's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, for example.  In essence, Ponchielli's quartetto is a short opera in which the stereotypical roles of traditional Italian melodramma are personified by a quartet of solo woodwind instruments.  The flute is the soprano coloratura, all'Amina in Bellini's La Sonnambula. the clarinet in E-flat is the tenore lirico-leggiero, al Ernesto in Donizetti's Don Pasquale. the oboe is the ardent mezzo-soprano all"Angelina in Rossini's La Cenerentola. and the B-flat clarinet is the spirited baritone, remiscent of Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

This operatic instrumental work has everything required for a bel canto opera: coloratura flights of fancy, passionate arias, a storm scene, ornate cadenzas, a Spanish bolero, and even a pas-de-deux for a ballet.  And everywhere there are tight, virtuosic quartet ensembles that recall Rossini at his most dextrous. 

In sum, this brilliant piece is a hilarous spoof of Italian opera -- a form in which Ponchielli was a master.  Author of numerous grand operas, Ponchielli's magnum opus --
La Gioconda -- remains today in the standard repertoire of many great opera houses.  And of course, his Dance of the Hours is now a humorous icon of pop culture for many listeners who have never set foot in an opera house.

However, this work is more than an uproariously funny joke.  Ponchielli realized his parody of opera with extraorindary instrumental virtuosity and an inexhaustible supply of memoral melodies.  Here is a concertante work that will test the mettle of the finest woodwind players. 

When Mark Starr's orchestral arrangement of this work was performed for the first time, the quartet of woodwind soloists elected to wear operatic costumes that included a hunchback, the Queen of the Night's pointed hat (with a veil that descended to obscure the flutist's eyes,) a horned helmut and a torreador's cap.  Mr. Starr hopes future woodwind quartets will continue this apt tradition.

In the 19th Century, Casa Ricordi published the
Quartetto as a piece for woodwind quartet and piano.  Working from the original edition, Mark Starr has arranged and orchestrated the 15-minute piece for large 19th Century Italian opera orchestra -- replete with obbligato percussion instruments, such as the gran cassa and due piatti.  Despite the symphonic forces, he has taken great pains to ensure that the solo woodwind quartet can always be hears clearly. 

Here is a showpiece for any top-notch orchestra to show off star principals in its woodwind section.

The solo woodwind parts and the separate orchestral parts are now available on rental from Noteworthy Musical Editions.  To inquire about parts rental fees and performance fees, please send an email to noteworthymusic@zasu.us

The full orchestral score is available for perusal, audition, purchase, downloading and printing on the website of sibeliusmusic.com .  Because of its considerable length, the score has been divided into two parts.  Part 1 can be located with the following link:


Part 2 can  be located with the following link


Or, you can find this score and many other scores by Mark Starr on sibeliusmusic.com in the catalog at the following link: