THE BOTTESINI URTEXT
My first introduction to Bottesini was just before I started music college listening to his Elegy being performed by Joel Quarrington. I listened to it on repeat being astounded by its virtuosity and sonorous tone. I did not believe pieces with such musicality or anything so beautiful had ever been written for the double bass. I imagine my reaction was similar to those from his period hearing him for the first time. Many tales of his skill can be found in newspaper articles ‘quoting him as one of the greatest soloists of his time’, ‘the Paganini of the double bass’ or the famous tale of people storming the stage to look for a cellist in the wings. Ever since this moment I have had an ever-increasing passion for his music and desire to discover what he wrote.
Bottesini is standard core repertoire for the double bassist and especially any music college student. As part of my degree I have learnt several pieces of his repertoire, and referenced many different recordings but the more I learnt and listened, the more questions would arise as to the accuracy of the editions I was playing from. I started to notice substantial changes between different printed editions and recordings of the same piece, leaving me unsure of the composer’s original intentions.
The catalyst for my Urtext editions started when I was learning a piece for my final recital – Capriccio Di Bravura. I listened to many different recordings of this piece to enhance my knowledge of the music but I could not ignore the differences in a particular performance. This version contained complete changes of notes and phrases with sections placed in different octaves compared to other recordings. One phrase in particular was played in different octaves on every different recording I listened to.
This left me with the questions, what did Bottesini play? What were his intentions? Why have these variations come up? What could have caused them? Armed with a new found passion, I went in search of the original manuscripts to clarify exactly what Bottesini wrote and intended, and in turn, produce editions that were reliable and completely true to the original.
It is through this I have discovered a vast catalogue of forgotten pieces. Operas, fantasies, string quartets, string quintets and many more works that the public no longer gets to enjoy. The Bottesini Urtext is a project to bring his music and resources on Bottesini life back in to the public domain, for people to enjoy his music once again. Of his catalogue only his music for double bass is available today, despite in his time, Bottesini was known equally as a composer and conductor and it is disheartening that someone that was so integral to the Romantic period isn't enjoyed alongside his peers today.
Another important reason to make this project a reality, is to protect Italian culture and the original manuscripts themselves. Digitising the manuscripts will reduce the need to reference the original paper scores and thus considerably reduce the damage factor. The scores can then be put on display to the public in protected environments.'
The Bottesini Urtext will be a life long project, due to it's size and nature, his manuscripts need to be collected and digitised and then formatted into editions, which is a seemingly endless task for a sole person to take on. Funding is needed for more research and to help cover the costs of collating copies of manuscripts and most importantly the incredibly time consuming task of digitising the manuscripts into notation software. If you are interested in knowing more and helping the project by either digitising scores or pledging through Patreon, please contact me.