The son of a clarinetist, Bottesini had an early musical education that including choral singing, violin, and timpani; he did not take up the double bass until age 14, which he did only because it was one of the only scholarship positions available at the Milan Conservatory. Nevertheless, within four years he managed to win a prize for solo playing.
Bottesini toured extensively as a soloist, making several trips to North America in addition to European capitals, also acting as principal bassist and music director for a number of orchestras; for much of his life he was only intermittently in Italy. He met Verdi while playing with the orchestra of the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice, which was the start of a long acquaintance; Bottesini later conducted the premier of Verdi's Aïda in Cairo.
In the last two decades of his life, he focused more on composing and conducting than on performing. In 1889 Verdi nominated him as director of the conservatory in Parma, but he died only six months later.
Bottesini is best remembered for the large body of solo bass music he wrote, including two concertos and a number of other concert pieces, mostly for bass and piano. Other chamber music includes eleven string quartets and a string quintet with added bass. Later in life he composed several purely orchestral works.
However, he also wrote a substantial amount of vocal music, including fourteen operas, an oratorio, and a Requiem. His numerous art songs have been very little explored. He also wrote a method book for the bass.
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