My new biography of Bottesini

The achievements of Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) as a solo performer on the double bass tower above those of any other player before or since. In fact it’s hard to think of any other field of human endeavour where one person has gone so far beyond everybody else.

For nearly fifty years he astonished and delighted audiences on four continents at a time when most people never left their immediate locality.

Available from Amazon.

My new biography The Paganini of the Double Bass: Bottesini in Britain tells the complete life story of this remarkable man. He visited Britain over twenty times and performed in around 800 concerts including thirteen lengthy national tours. His many appearances in London throughout the Victorian era took place in a changing musical scene, as rival opera companies went to war, and concert promoters experimented with different ways of presenting music to the public.

Bottesini, almost uniquely, was an outstanding success both at the most serious philharmonic concerts and at the rowdiest popular events. He was particularly associated with the Proms. He appeared over 200 times between 1851 and 1887, and even shared conducting duties with Johann Strauss II for the 1867 season, but he did not quite live long enough to see the era of Henry Wood.

Bottesini’s autograph, collected by the seven-year-old Charles Villiers Stanford (with thanks to the Library of the Royal College of Music)

Although my book covers Bottesini’s career in Britain in most detail, it describes his entire life: 

  • how his company in Havana raised the standards of opera in America in the late 1840s 
  • how he had major conducting positions in Mexico, Paris, Barcelona, Cairo and Buenos Aires
  • the story behind how he came to conduct the world premiere of Aida
  • how the operas he composed met with success but never became established in the repertoire
  • his pioneering role in introducing symphonies and chamber music to Italy
  • how his constant gambling and inability to manage his finances forced him to keep going back on the road with his double bass
  • his up-and-down relationships with Verdi, Rossini and the powerful publishing house of Ricordi
  • his two wives, hardly mentioned in any previous study

The inclusion of around 20 letters to his closest friend, most of them not in any previous study of Bottesini, allows us to see the great double bass player’s life from his own perspective — his domestic quarrels, his financial pressures and his professional rivalries.

  • 280 pages
  • Available from Amazon
  • Based on almost 10000 references in contemporary periodicals, mainly in the UK, but also Italy, Germany, France, USA, Cuba, etc
  • Many inaccurate dates and places from previous studies have been corrected
  • All UK appearances listed
  • Three major interviews with Bottesini from UK newspapers
  • Over 70 contemporary reviews
  • 27 pictures
  • Many adverts and documents from the era
  • The first ever chronological listing of his music for double bass sheds light on the development of his techniques
  • Detailed index of all people, places and works mentioned

As powerful a sensation on the audience as ever we remember to have witnessed in any theatre by any performer

Musical World, 1851 chart on 2 August 2021

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