Serge Koussevitzky


Russian Bass Virtuoso and successor of Bottesini, best remembered today among the less-informed as conductor of the Boston Symphony.

Koussevitzky has been widely proclaimed as heir to Bottesini's greatness. Serious Bottesini scholars discount the notion on the basis that Koussevitzky's compositions for the Bass (his Concerto in particular) are clearly anti-Bottesinistic. He was more nearly the logical successor of Domenico Dragonetti.

Koussevitzky himself subtly encouraged the notion that Bottesini's mantle as the Bass Virtuoso had landed on his shoulders, saying, for instance, that he was present at Bottesini's death-bed -- an exaggeration at the least, since he was only 15 at the time, and records show he never left his provincial hometown of Pskov for St. Petersburg until he was 17.

Given his limitations, Koussevitzky was a fine bassist, and must be appreciated for his talents as a conductor; he helped further the Bottesini Ideal of the Leader-Bassist. His years with the Boston Symphony (1924-1949) were good ones for American Bassists (though not, by some accounts, for those who actually played in Boston).

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