The Bottesini bass has its own identity and iconic status, shrouded in mystery. It has not been seen publicly since 1974 and is such a valuable instrument that the current owner would not allow the double bass to be taken outside his house for the recordings. Bottesini performed with this double bass around the world — Havana, Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Milan and Boston. Those who heard Bottesini play the instrument said it had an enchanting tone, but there are no known previous recordings of Bottesini’s instrument.
“It was a great, great honor to play this instrument,” Rotaru said. “It is mythical for me and a magical experience.”
Bottesini purchased his double bass in 1838. At that time, the instrument was already over 100 years old. It was made by Carlo Antonio Testore in 1716. In the 1830s, the instrument was discovered sitting backstage in a marionette theater in Milan.
“Testore had made a few other double basses during his lifetime, but this double bass is particularly special because of who played it,” Rotaru said. “It is because Bottesini himself acquired the instrument when he was less than 20 years old and a student in the Milano Conservatory.”
Bottesini’s approach revolutionized the double bass’ place in music, Rotaru said. Before Bottesini, there were two distinct compositional elements that were not present or emphasized in solo literature for double bass. One is harmonics — a particular sound accomplished on a string instrument by gently touching the strings without pressing down on the fingerboard. The other is aria-like melodies or passages.
“What Bottesini brought into the double bass and why I consider him a pioneer, a revolutionary in the double bass technique, is the way we play today — the introduction of harmonics combined with lyricism of the actual passages,” Rotaru said.
Rotaru compared Bottesini to Einstein, saying that “Einstein’s theory revolutionized modern physics, the same way Bottesini revolutionized the way we play this instrument today.”
The recorded project is available in physical CD and downloadable at soundset.com.