Connu pour ses opéras, tels que la fameuse "Gioconda", Amilcare Ponchielli l’est moins pour sa musique d’orgue. Typiques de la musique théâtrale de cette époque (y compris à l’église : cf. les pages célèbres du Padre Davide de Bergame), ses partitions opposent souvent des « soli » virtuoses à des « tutti » brillants et un peu racoleurs. Sur quinze "Pastorali" enregistrées ici dans le volume 1, quatre seulement me paraissent mériter quelque attention. Mais force est de reconnaître que le talentueux Marco Ruggeri réussit à nous convaincre qu’à côté de ces œuvres pas toujours convaincantes, d’autres - enregistrées dans le volume 2 - méritent le détour : ainsi cette "Sinfonia", cet "Allegretto campestre" et ces "Variazioni" (originellement destinées au clavecin) ou encore la célèbre "Danza delle ore" de la "Gioconda" (transcrite pour orgue). Par ailleurs, les instruments historiques - qu’a joués Ponchielli lui-même - sonnent magnifiquement, avec leurs sonorités franches et tout leur attirail de percussions, campanelli (clochettes) et banda turca. (Jean-Paul Lécot)
A delightful discovery for all fans of verismo and Romantic organ music, including an entire disc of world premiere recordings. The string quartets of Donizetti and Verdi, and the oboe concerto of Bellini, represent rare overlaps between the fields of operatic and instrumental music in 19th-century Italy. Moving into the 20th century, the operas of Respighi have gained a toe-hold on the record catalogues but he is still remembered principally (and justly) for his orchestral showpieces such as the Pines of Rome, while composers in the contemporary verismo tradition carried on doing what they did best and producing knock-em-dead tragedies of high drama and low life for the lyric stage, from Tosca to La Gioconda. Or did they? A fact known to very few even in Italy is that Amilcare Ponchielli, composer of La Gioconda and teacher of Puccini, wrote not only for the opera house but also the church. As the son of a shopkeeper who was organist in the village church, he studied music first with his father and then with the organist of a neighbouring village. In his early years he produced a substantial repertoire of sacred music and a body of organ pieces for occasional and liturgical use, few of which were played until Marco Ruggeri, the organist on this new recording, gathered them together for an authoritative critical edition in 1999. They include a novel symphony ‘half for organ, half for piano’. In 2011 Ruggeri recorded roughly half of Ponchielli’s organ output for the Bottega Discantia label, an album now superseded by this new recording made in 2017 and 2019. Never previously recorded are a collection of delightful Pastorales, as well as a funeral march in memory of his father, and a prelude to a cantata by Donizetti. However, there is one piece without which no self-regarding Ponchielli collection would be complete, and Marco Ruggeri includes it here as an encore: the ‘Dance of the Hours’ from La Gioconda, made eternally famous by Disney’s troupe of dancing elephants.