Bottesini’s 200th anniversary: The world at his feet

Figure 2 T26662_Giovanni Bottesini  Double Bassist c 1860

Stephen Street looks at the life and career of the remarkable artist Giovanni Bottesini and introduces us to his catalogue of works

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The extent to which Giovanni Bottesini (1821–89) was adored in his lifetime or how much he revolutionised the double bass is difficult to convey. Described as ‘the greatest artist in the world’ (Freeman’s Journal, 1886), astonishing people with the ‘perfection of his playing’ (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1884), the Italian virtuoso clearly earned his famous epithet: ‘the Paganini of the double bass’.

This year, the bicentenary of his birth, offers a perfect opportunity to revisit Bottesini’s work and evaluate his legacy. Alongside his extensive repertoire for double bass, he composed operas, sinfonias, a requiem and a ballet, as well as chamber music which remains largely unheard today. What better time to explore his forgotten catalogue and the techniques outlined in his ground-breaking method?

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