"Thank you. The concert ends: there will be no encore."

This version comes from Ricardo Armonico, who was part of the close-knit and dedicated coterie of Bottesini's students at Parma in his last years. Armonico later went on to enjoy a long and successful career as a section player at La Scala, and authored a memoir titled "My Life with Bottesini the Master," published in Milan in 1905. Armonico's dramatic account also records what the maestro did after he spoke his final words:

"Our beloved teacher looked about the room at each of our faces, piercing our souls, making each of us to the last man promise inwardly that we would carry his message to the music world: that the Contrabass is the Voice of Heaven. He died quietly, and we wept at the passing of a great spirit from this world."

Some Bottesini scholars have disputed the Armonico version, but I find it appealing as well as believable. Armonico was a scrupulous man and a career bassist who really had nothing to gain and much to lose in the face of his fellow Bassists by misquoting Bottesini. While there are a few minor factual errors in his memoir (he names Bottesini's birthplace as Parma, for instance, rather than Crema) it is on the whole a good and accurate account that has been endlessly useful in Bottesini scholarship.

Furthermore, Bottesini was a consummate showman; it would not be surprising that in his last moments he should see his life as a concert. Many famous actors and musicians are quoted has having uttered similar dying words, and Bottesini's use of this device could easily have been motivated by his own self-comparison to other great performers. Remember, too, that Bottesini died an atheist, which would explain his "no encore" allusion.

Still, when examined in the light of other sources, the advanced Bottesini scholar must conclude that this saying is anything from uncertain to untrue.

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