About this Recording
8.570399 - BOTTESINI COLLECTION (The), Vol. 3
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Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889)
Fantasia ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ • Fantasia ‘Beatrice di Tenda’


Giovanni Bottesini, ‘the Paganini of the double bass’, was born in Crema, Northern Italy, on 22 December 1821 into a family of talented musicians. His own musical education began at the age of five, when he studied violin with an uncle. He also sang as a treble in church choirs and played timpani in several local orchestras. When he was thirteen his father, having learned that there were two scholarship places available at the Milan Conservatory, one for bassoon and the other for double bass, asked him which he would like to apply for. Young Bottesini chose the double bass, not because he already felt a particular attraction for the instrument, but mainly because of his previous knowledge of stringed instruments. During his audition, after only four lessons with Luigi Rossi, he so impressed the jury with his general musicianship that they overlooked his lack of technique; at one point he apologized for playing out of tune but promised this would not happen once he had mastered his fingering.

Thus began Bottesini’s association with the double bass, an association that was to bring him the greatest triumphs of his long and varied career. On leaving the Conservatory in 1839 he was awarded 300 francs which he used, together with 600 francs borrowed from a relative, to purchase the instrument that was to be the companion of his successful concert career. This instrument was made in 1716 by Carlo Antonio Testore and was a 3/4 size Italian double bass tuned one, or one and a half tones higher than the usual orchestral tuning. The three strings were of gut and he used a slightly longer than average French bow.

Bottesini gave his first public concert in Crema in 1839 and in 1840 embarked on a concert tour of Italy with his former fellow-pupil, Luigi Arditi. 1846 found the two friends in Havana and it was here that Bottesini wrote his first opera, Cristoforo Colombo, which was performed with great success. His composing career had begun while still at the Conservatory with a Quartet for Harps in B minor. His operas, and in particular Ero e Leandro and Ali Babà were well-received in his lifetime and his fascination for the human voice can also be seen in his writings for the double bass. Although a recognised composer it was as a virtuoso of the double bass that he was acclaimed in all the cities that he visited, places as far apart as St Petersburg, London, Dublin, Paris, Vienna, Buenos Aires and Boston. He played before most of the crowned heads or Europe, receiving praise from, amongst others, Czar Alexander II, Emperor Napoleon III and Queen Victoria, and everywhere he played his audiences were amazed at the brilliance of his technique. His friendship with Verdi, which had begun in 1844, led the latter to choose him to conduct the first performance of Aida in Cairo and to recommend him for the post of Director of the Conservatory in Parma, a post he accepted just six months before his death in 1889.

© Francesca Franchi



Some of the most beautiful examples of Bottesini’s use of harmonics are contained in the fantasy on Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as one of his most heroic feats as he attempts the entire “finale” by himself.

Romanza drammatica or Elegia in E minor is typical of Bottesini’s many singing compositions for the double bass and is reminiscent of his melodic writing for the voice.

Introduzione e bolero is a later work by Bottesini. Although he performed it with much success in London and other places, it was surely written for his many visits to Spain where he was popular.

Bottesini wrote a large number of songs of all descriptions in his native Italian as well as French, English and Spanish. Une bouche aimée is one of several which include an obbligato for himself. He went off on countless tours with ‘concert parties’ of artists, often including the leading sopranos of his day such as Artot, Sontag, Patti, and Fiorentini. This song probably comes from his tenure in Paris.

Capriccio di bravura is one of Bottesini’s finest compositions for the double bass illustrating as it does both the lyric ‘bel canto’ style and the virtuosity of his technique. It appears in his Touring Collection.

Elégie in D is one of the best known of Bottesini’s compositions for the double bass. He also coupled it on occasion with his famous Tarantella as an extended introduction.

Fantasia ‘Beatrice di Tenda’ is one of a number of fantasias on operatic themes which Bottesini wrote and performed with such success. These fantasies were mostly on themes from works by Donizetti and Bellini, whose operatic style so influenced his writing. This fantasia on Bellini’s opera is one of the most beautiful of Bottesini’s fantasies.

Although Bellini was perhaps the greatest influence on Bottesini’s composing style, in later years he was also greatly influenced by Mendlessohn and the Grande Allegro di Concerto is a reflection of his style. The harmonic content of the compositional style stretches the double bass to its absolute pyrotechnic limits.


Sung texts and English translations can be accessed at www.naxos.com/libretti/570399.htm

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