Bottesini compared to Dragonetti

Comparisons of the two Virtuosi are inevitable. Bottesini's star began to rise in Dragonetti's last years, so the latter tends to fare poorly in contemporary retrospectives. The editorial committee of this work believes that an objective comparison of the two will favor Bottesini, though Dragonetti deserves credit for laying the groundwork and for his heroic efforts in the face of a bow that hindered musicality and virtuoso technique.

An 1884 history of opera in Philadelphia, called Bottesini "the greatest contrabassist that ever lived . . . superior to Dragonetti."

Others, like this reviewer in Boston, were more specific:

He unites the capacities of the violin with those of the double bass and either in a solo, duet, or in a band, his force, brilliancy, precision and delicate finish, make the superiority of the famous Dragonetti very questionable, and yet he is but a youth, and the other was a veteran. A musician of some eminence in this city, who heard both, gives Bottesini the preference for style and command of all the resources of his favorite instrument.

-- Boston Post, May 2, 1847

The same reviewer said four days later:

The "on dit" in musical circles, of most especial interest, makes it doubtful if all devouring London do not soon withdraw Bottesini from this unappreciating transatlantic sphere, to fill the void left by Dragonetti's decease.

Dragonetti partisans tended to come from Germany, like this 1853 reviewer:

Bottesini was too fast, too high, too brilliant, lacking kraft. I closed my eyes and did not know I heard a Contrabass. How I miss his countryman Dragonetti -- there was a Bassist of the base.

Dragonetti: hero of Moristo

Sadly, the cause of Dragonetti was eventually taken up by Franco D. Umberto in his most vile attempt to besmirch Bottesini. More than once, Bottesini's concerts were interrupted by audience members chanting "DRA-GO-NET-TI!" Clearly, they were instigated by Umberto, who in all likelihood never met Dragonetti and cared nothing for his playing.

In recent years, Moristo, working with the major record labels, has tried to credit Dragonetti with some of Bottesini's Bass solo masterworks, swelling his meager oeuvre with ill-gotten goods. May this present work set the record straight. Despite his many and obvious faults, it is sad that a worthy bassist like Dragonetti, should be dragged into the mud by Moristo or associated in any way with Umberto.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (