"These hands . . . ah, what these hands might have done."

This is probably the most widely believed version of Bottesini's last words; indeed, it captures well the pathos, the power, and the drama of the Master's life.

The earliest printed record of this most famous of the Master's dying sayings is an unsigned article in the Danish journal Musikhistoriker in a special issue from the spring of 1909 commemorating the 20th anniversary of Bottesini's death. No source for the quotation is cited.

MH (as I shall henceforth refer to it) is usually an impeccable authority, but this particular article (titled "The Last Days of Bottesini") is riddled with bizarre inaccuracies. It claims, for instance, that Bottesini was living in Milan rather than Parma when he died, and that the cause of his death was gangrene brought on when he accidentally crushed his foot with his endpin.

Anyone delving into Bottesini's psyche would know that he did not focus on his hands as the source of his power, but on his bow and his Bass as extensions of himself.

I am forced to conclude that this saying was either purely fictional or picked up casually in the northern Italian countryside, where numerous odd legends about Bottesini abound.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (mtic@aol.com)