Today I’d like to share with you a composer and concerto that are completely new to me: Giovanni Bottesini’s Double Bass Concerto No. 2 in B minor.
Bottesini (1821-1889) was born in Northern Italy. He studied violin and would have become a violinist. But when he applied to the Milan Conservatory, they had no scholarships available for violin positions but had an opening for double bass (also known as the contrabass, the largest, lowest-pitched string instrument. Think of it as a giant cello). So Bottesini ended up studying double bass.
Bottesini changed the public’s perception of the double bass, showing that it could be a solo instrument, and went into the musical history books as the Nicolo Paganini of the double bass. He was a virtuoso and greatly expanded the limited repertoire for the giant instrument. He composed 48 pieces for the instrument, including three concertos.
Bottesini earned a living as a conductor and was well known throughout Europe. Verdi chose him to conduct the first performance of Aida. But his first love was double bass, and while conducting opera, during intermission he would bring his double bass on stage and play his fantasies on the theme of the opera.