proof the double bass can steal the show

Many people think of double bass as the instrument that plays the “Elephant” in Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”….a slow lumbering instrument that is more trouble than its worth to have around. Allow this to change your mind.

Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) was an Italian composer/conductor/performer who basically was known as the “Paganini of the Double Bass”. Not only did he have incredible skill, he significantly expanded the double bass repertoire (two concertos, two major duo concertantes (one with violin and the other with cello as the D.B.’s partner), and over 20 concert pieces. He also wrote a handful of operas, over ten string quartets, and was hand-selected by Verdi to conduct the first performance of Aida.

Even funnier, he was originally a violinist, but needed a scholarship to get into the Milan Conservatory. The only openings for scholarships were on double bass and bassoon…and in several weeks he switched to double bass and successfully auditioned. Good thing he changed, because the double bass would never have been the same without him.

Check out the third movement of his Concerto No. 2 in B minor for Double Bass above, played by Edgar Meyer (his cadenza too, btw) and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Only 4.5 minutes, but very much worth your time to check out. If you want to hear more awesome double bass music, I highly recommend the Gran Duo Concertante for Violin and Double Bass. Incredible part writing.

Happy Listening!

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