"Please bring me my contrabass--the Testore--let me touch it one last time."

An American publication, The Luthiers Almanac (Vol. 13, 1912), included this version of Bottesini's last words in a lengthy article on the life and work of master bassmaker Giuseppi Testore signed by Mr. Edmond Richward, a violin repairman who frequented Canton, Ohio.

To put it bluntly, there is no way this story can be true -- in its details or in its tenor. Any true Bottesini scholar would concur. While it is true that Bottesini had a strong -- some might say parasitic -- relationship with the instrument, and the Bass was forcibly taken away from him just hours before he died, I cannot bring myself to trust the world of a luthier. Their shifting pronouncements and billing practices go far beyond the Bottesinistic principles of Uncertainty.

It is interesting, however, that a writer seemingly so far from the source would claim such intimate (albeit inaccurate) details about Bottesini's life; it suggests a strong international "grapevine" among luthiers. (This may amount to a world-wide cartel; it would explain the skyrocketing prices, ever-slower work, and increasingly shoddy quality I have experienced uniformly with luthiers on all seven continents in recent years.)

As far as I've been able to discover, the Richward quotation comes from no previous printed source; we have to assume that it too was cut from whole cloth -- like the MH quotation. It maintains some currency by being repeated every time a Testore instrument comes up for auction. Tellingly, though, I have never heard a Bassist repeat it.

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