Chris West on Bottesini in Britain

We review of Chris West's book "Bottesini in Britain." The book explores the life, music, and impact of 19th-century Italian double bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini, with a focus on his time in Britain.

With Chris West · London, UK

Giovanni Bottesini, the renowned 19th-century Italian double bass virtuoso, remains a significant figure among bass players worldwide. But did you know that most of his double bass performances were in Britain?

Chris West‘s latest book, The Paganini of the Double Bass: Bottesini in Britain, sheds new light on this often overlooked chapter in Bottesini’s life, revealing the depth of his influence and contribution to music during his time in Britain.

Captivating Self-Expression

Throughout Bottesini’s career, the double bass was not just an instrument but an extension of his soul. As Chris West describes, Bottesini was a completely different person when holding the double bass—a transcendent experience for both the musician and his audience. West emphasizes that Bottesini expressed himself creatively and innovatively, surpassing what was previously imaginable on the double bass. This insight highlights Bottesini’s imaginative prowess and his transformative influence on the instrument’s repertoire and technique.

Check out sheet music from Chris in our DBHQ Store

A Rich History

One of the standout elements of “Bottesini in Britain” is its thorough research. It meticulously pieces together Bottesini’s life through periodical snippets, personal letters, and anecdotes. This comprehensive approach offers readers an engaging narrative filled with fascinating details about Bottesini’s tours, performances, and personal reflections.

Chris West’s dedication to uncovering Bottesini’s story shines through in his portrayal of Bottesini’s tours and the profound impact he had on British musical culture. For example, Bottesini’s appearances at concerts would often overshadow other performers, demonstrating his exceptional skill and the powerful impression he left on audiences.

A Composer’s Journey

West also provides readers with a chronological exploration of Bottesini’s compositions, offering a deeper understanding of his artistic development. By examining the context in which Bottesini created his pieces, West helps bassists, and music enthusiasts appreciate the evolution of his technique and musical ideas. West’s insights serve as an invaluable resource for musicians seeking to perform Bottesini’s works with greater historical and technical insight.

Rare Personal Insights

The book includes unique personal letters and interviews with Bottesini, offering a rare glimpse into his thoughts, feelings, and personal challenges. These documents reveal Bottesini’s financial struggles, his dynamic relationships, and his philosophical outlook on music and life. One particularly revealing aspect is Bottesini’s casual yet profound musings about his career and the people in his life, such as his close friend Paolo Rotondo.

Bottesini’s Global Impact

West goes beyond Britain, exploring Bottesini’s influence in other parts of the world, including his significant contributions to opera in places like Havana, Mexico, and Buenos Aires. This global perspective underscores Bottesini’s role in elevating musical standards and fostering international connections in the 19th-century music scene.

A Researcher’s Adventure

Amidst his scholarly work, Chris West also details his personal journey in researching Bottesini. His narrative captures the complexities, challenges, and unexpected discoveries of historical research. From pouring over newspaper archives to deciphering handwritten letters, West offers a compelling behind-the-scenes look at the making of this authoritative biography.


“Bottesini in Britain” by Chris West is a must-read for double bass enthusiasts and anyone interested in 19th-century classical music. It is a meticulously researched and engagingly written account that brings Bottesini’s extraordinary musical legacy to life. West’s dedication to uncovering and presenting this rich history not only informs but also inspires. Whether you are a performer seeking deeper insights into Bottesini’s technique or a history buff curious about the life of this musical titan, this book offers valuable perspectives and newfound appreciation for Giovanni Bottesini.

Get Your Copy

The Paganini of the Double Bass: Bottesini in Britain is available for purchase on Amazon. Don’t miss out on this essential addition to your music library, and delve into the fascinating life and legacy of Giovanni Bottesini.

An Update from Chris

Following an inquiry via the ISB from Han Han Cho, the principal double bass of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, Chris West, the writer of the Bottesini biography The Paganini of the Double Bass: Bottesini in Britain, has identified the previously unknown author of the poem used by the great bass player for his song with obligato double bass, Tutto che il mondo serra. 

Chris discovered the words in a poem entitled L’Addio alla Patria (The Farewell to the Fatherland) in the collected works of Giuseppe Ricciardi (1808-82), an exiled Italian nationalist politician. Chris believes that the song, an arrangement of Chopin’s Etude in C# minor, was written for concerts given by Bottesini and his partner, the opera singer Claudina Fiorentini, shortly before they left Italy to move to Barcelona in 1863

Keep Exploring

patrick neher double bass duets

Cool double bass duets for students by Patrick Neher!

John Clayton jazz double bass

Whitney Houston’s Star-Spangled Banner: Notes from the Arranger

Gary Peacock double bass

Exploring the genius of Gary Peacock’s double bass playing

Share This Post


Get connected to double bassists, events, and communities all over the world.


Listen to the Podcast

Contrabass conversations

Share your ideas with the double bass community.