Giovanni Bottesini (1821–1889) may have been the best double bassist ever to walk the earth. He was born in Crema, Italy, and he studied with a certain Luigi Rossi at the music conservatory in Milan. When he applied to the conservatory, there were only openings for bassoon and double bass — plague or cholera — so he chose double bass.
Bottesini was a man of the opera. He wrote twelve operas, and he conducted many works by his contemporaries, among them, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi. And it is said that as entertainment during intermission he played variations on the themes of the evening on his bass. He also conducted the premiere of Verdi’s Aida in Cairo in 1871.
Grande Duo Concertante is one of Bottesini’s most popular pieces. With its blinding virtuosity and blend of riveting drama and more straightforward melodies, it is an audience favourite. Gran Allegro ”Alla Mendelssohn” draws its inspiration from the first movement of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. Bottesini was an ardent admirer of Mendelssohn.