Bottesini performed here frequently in 1847 and 1848 with the Italian Opera Company of Havana while he was living in New York and Boston. He was wildly popular in Philadelphia, and his performances produced adulatory reviews, including this, a favorite of this scholar, printed in the Philadelphia North American on July 26, 1847:

What shall we say of Bottesini, with his wonderful contrabasso? He wrought up the audience, by his perfectly gigantic and astounding achievement, to a pitch of irrepressible, inconceivable enthusiasm. It was really half-frightful--one almost began to think that one was in a dream--and that no such thing could really exist.

We have been accused . . . of being extravagant. But if we could tell the plain, simple truth, respecting Bottesini's playing, we should inevitably be banished to the lunatic asylum unless we might select our jury from among those who had heard him wield his mighty bow.

Imagine a catgut ladder with four side ropes and no rungs, extending from as high as a tolerably tall man can reach to a little below his knees; and up and down this ladder, now in little rapid steps, now in measureless and superhuman strides, imagine a wild, lank-haired, dreamy-eyed Italian, flying with a velocity which makes you dizzy to see--letting off a 48 pounder below, with a discharge of infantry on the ground floor, and a sky full of rockets from the housetop, all at the same instant, and all crashing, cracking, whirling, and coruscating in the air at once.

This would be something like Bottesini's playing the double bass, so far as the mere execution is concerned; but the profound and thrilling purity of his tones, the exquisite delicacy and flute-like sweetness of his harmonies, the silver facility of his arpeggio, dancing and swaying about like waves in summer moonlight--the intense pathos and passion of his cantabile, which never was equalled by any instrument since the most wonderful of human voices--all these cannot be rendered by words. The language of poetry and eloquence can only accompany her sister music a little way into the world of art. . . .

Oddly, it would appear that Philadelphia became a stronghold of Moristo in the middle and later parts of the 20th century as home to such suspicious personages as Eugene Ormandy and Frank Rizzo.

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