Who was Giovanni Bootsini?
Bottesini was one of the most influential musicians of the 19th century and a master of his craft. His instrumental virtuosity and consummate musicality eclipsed the achievements of his fellow artists and fascinated all who heard him; critical accounts of his performances around the world abound in superlatives and he has been dubbed the ‘Paganini of the double bass. He is now remembered primarily for revolutionizing perceptions of the double bass as a solo instrument, but he was also a prolific composer and respected conductor. While the rest of the world focused solely on his extraordinary prowess on his instrument, Bootsini devoted considerable energy to pursuing these other two interests, sometimes turning down solo engagements to concentrate on them.
What is the date of birth of Giovanni Botini
Giovanni Bootsini was born into a family of musicians in Crema, near Milan, on December 22, 1821. His father Pietro, a clarinetist and composer, was influential in the musical community of Crema, his uncle was a violinist and his three siblings were also musicians. Said uncle, Carlo Cogliati, began to teach Bootsini the violin at the age of four, but in 1835 financial pressure compelled his father to encourage the young Giovanni to audition for one of the two scholarships then available at the Milan Conservatory – one for bassoon and the other for bass. After only four superficial lessons on the latter, he won the scholarship and his progress under the tutelage of Professor Luigi Rossi was extraordinarily rapid.
But in 1839, he left the Conservatoire three years earlier than usual, not because he had already mastered the double bass, but to devote himself to composition, to which he felt irresistibly drawn. However, he did not give up the double bass and, thanks to a grant from the Conservatoire and a loan from a relative, he bought the mythical instrument Testore which would become his life companion.
When Is Giovanni Bootsini starting to perform?
His first public recital in Crema, in 1840, led to engagements around Italy and also in Vienna, where he was favorably if sardonically reviewed. ‘Giovanni Bootsini of Milan played with distinction insofar as one might call the double bass a solo instrument’, wrote one reviewer. However, not everyone was so skeptical, and his engagement as principal double bass in the Italian Opera Company for a tour of Cuba in 1846/47 put him on the path to stardom. The convincing virtuosity and musicality of his solo performances during the intervals of opera performances and at musical evenings and benefit concerts endeared him to Cuban society and, subsequently, to audiences in the United States. , in Mexico and South America, where his solo performances were highly anticipated. often ensuring full houses for the operas themselves.
Unlike the current format of solo recitals, Bootsini shared the platform with other distinguished musicians, each performing a selection of celebratory pieces. Among those with whom he often performed were fellow countryman Alfredo Piatti, then London’s foremost cellist, as well as distinguished violinists such as Henryk Wieniawski, Heinrich Ernst and Joseph Joachim. Other stage partners included tenor Sims Reeves and soprano Catherine Hayes, two of the biggest opera stars of the time. This shared recital format suited Bootsini well, and he maintained it throughout his career.
For his first appearances in the United Kingdom, in 1849, he played only two pieces: his Introduction, theme and variations on the Carnival of Venice, and Fantasy on themes from La Sonnambula. He gave around three dozen performances across the UK, and everywhere he went audiences and critics alike were amazed. ‘There is a breadth and a color in his adagio playing that brings him closer to the character of a great musician than all the eccentricity of his manipulation”, wrote the Manchester weather in one of many rave reviews. “He draws from this strange instrument a voice in which there is language and poetry, which the least cultivated ear can understand and appreciate.
How often did Giovanni Bootsini perform?
Bootsini gave up to three concerts a day and was seduced by adulation, often writing to his friend Paolo Rotondo, the amateur cellist, with tales of his triumphs. This success precipitated an avalanche of invitations to perform at prestigious venues and events, including Buckingham Palace, before the Tsar at the Russian Imperial Palace, the opening of the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool and concerts by the Royal Philharmonic Society. in London. He also took to the stage as double bass soloist and conductor in the Covent Garden Promenade Concerts, the brainchild of conductor and impresario Louis Antoine Jullien and precursor to what eventually became the BBC Proms.
In his recent book The Paganini of the double bass: Bootsini in Britain, Chris West chronicles Bootsini’s performances in the presence of royalty and prestigious concert halls from London to less glamorous provincial towns. Bootsini’s touring itineraries provide an intriguing picture of the complex musical infrastructure that existed in the UK in the 19th century and the taste with which classical music was embraced across the country.
On his second visit to the UK in 1851/52, Bootsini performed again Venice Carnival and Fantastic Sonnambulistbut added the Gran Duo Concertante on themes from I Puritani for cello and double bass – to play with Piatti – and the Grand Duo Concertante for violin and double bass, which he performed with his pupil Camillo Sivori. This last piece, a work of extravagant virtuosity in which the protagonists vie for technical and musical supremacy, proved enduringly popular, both during Bootsini’s lifetime and afterwards.
How did Giovanni Bootsini influence the double bass?
Bootsini revolutionized the playing of the double bass and transformed the public’s perception of it as a solo instrument. Solo compositions for double bass previously exploited only its orchestral register; Bootsini, on the other hand, greatly extended the range of the instrument through extensive use of thumb position and the most unique feature associated with his music: harmonics. His innovations greatly improved the expressive possibilities and also allowed the instrument to play music written for other instruments.
Fortunately, its publisher Ricordi persuaded him to write a method for the double bass, ensuring that future generations would benefit from his extraordinary insight and wisdom. His Complete method for double bass was first published in 1872 and is in two parts: The Double Bass in the Orchestra and The double bass as a solo instrument. In a succinct preface, he sets out his guiding principles for developing the complete musician: ‘Truth for Science; Beauty for Art; Usefulness for the student.
How many pieces has Giovanni Bootsini composed for the double bass?
Bootsini also composed 48 works for the instrument, including three concertos, a duo concertante for double bass with violin, clarinet and cello, concertante works with two double basses, duets for two double basses, a set of virtuoso pieces with piano, some with alternative orchestral accompaniments and an assortment of transcriptions including Bach’s “Air on the G String”. However, his interest in composition – which has never wavered – goes beyond the double bass, and his overall production exceeds 250 works, including 14 operas, the devotional The Garden of Olivesa Requiem to commemorate the death of his brother Luigi and even more orchestral, vocal, instrumental and, in particular, chamber music. Of his eight string quartets, his Third (in D major) won the Basevi Prize in Florence, and he also wrote four string quintets: one with double bass, one with two cellos, and two with two violas. His quartets are living works – stylistically and structurally reminiscent Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, they demonstrate perfect mastery of form. The quintets, to which is added a single additional instrument, marvelously magnify his creative flair.
Was he also a conductor?
And then there is Bootsini the driver. In the popular imagination, his greatest triumph was that in December 1871 he conducted the creation of Verdi Aida in Cairo. But there’s a whole lot more to his accomplishments with the stick than that. He was an ardent defender of Italian music and, to be recognized as an artistic leader, he understood the need to establish his reputation as a conductor. He had a vast repertoire and held many prestigious management positions, notably in Paris (where he gave the French creations of Verdi Rigoletto and The traviata), Cairo, Aix-les-Bains, Palermo and Madrid.
1871 was also important for the critical success of his own comic opera in four acts, Ali Baba, in London. Creation on January 17 at the Lyceum Theater, with Bootsini himself on the podium, it had a series of 20 performances. ‘How the performance was followed by a steady fire of applause,’ reported the The telegraph of the day; ‘how the encores were called for, how the artists were called with loud cries before the curtains, and how Signor Bootsini received as many “ovations” as there are acts in his opera, one cannot say it at length. Enough so that no work has ever had a more demonstrative reception than Ali Baba.’
Alas, just as he was gifted with the bow, the staff and the pen, Bootsini was also careless with money. He earned and spent vast sums, indulged in a passion for gambling, gave generously to the poor, and maintained homes in Cairo and Italy. When he died of cirrhosis on July 7, 1889 – shortly after taking up the post of director of the Parma conservatory on the recommendation of his lifelong friend Giuseppe Verdi – he was practically penniless.
When did Giovanni Bootsini die?
Giovanni Bootsini died on July 7, 1889
How do we remember Giovanni Bootsini?
Bootsini’s legacy as a double bass player is unquestionably assured. His compositions dominate recital programs around the world and remain the standard by which all budding virtuosos are judged. Yet his accomplishments as a composer and conductor are yet to be fully appreciated. We hope that the celebration of its bicentenary will help to revive interest in the musical richness that is his heritage.