Giovanni Bottesini (1821-89) - the famous double bass player purchased the Testore Double Bass (illustrated) in Milan after discovering it lying neglected in a marionette theatre. It was to be his constant companion throughout the rest of his life. (notes on the maker and instrument - see below)
During Bottesini’s lifetime the instrument remained a three-string bass as was the custom particularly in Italy. Bottesini tuned his bass a tone higher for solo work i.e. tuned to a-d-g. Bottesini with his Testore Double Bass
But during the 2nd half of the 19th century composers were increasingly writing down to a low E, hence Verdi’s instruction to us in Act 4 of "Otello": soli for "the basses with four strings."
(From The Strad, 1911)
“It has been converted from a three-string to a four-string bass since its present owner, Mr. Claude Hobday (1872-1954), acquired it in the year 1894, through the instrumentality of the late William E. Hill. [Mr.Hobday was a notable collector of basses, besides owning the Testore, he also owned instruments by Montagnana, Gasparo da Salo, Gennaro Gagliano, and Vincenzo Panormo.] Bottesini’s death occurred in 1889. The idea, which has frequently found its way into print, has long been current amongst musicians that Bottesini’s solo bass was of the small (basso di camera) size.... Except in the matter of widths, which are a trifle under the average, his favourite bass is to all intents and purposes an ordinary full-sized specimen.”
Later it was owned by James E. Merritt - a highly regarded player (Principal LPO) and teacher (Guildhall School of Music) in London. After he died, it was sold to Japan to Mr. Tokutaka. The instrument can be heard again (2017) on these recordings by CATALIN ROTARU
As a soloist he was much in demand travelling widely and was often referred to as "The Paganini of the Bass." Countries which he visited include: Cuba, United States, England (1849), St Petersburg and Mexico City. (see this cartoon)
Covent Garden Promenade Concerts Giovanni Bottesini himself acted as arranger of operatic selections, double-bass soloist as well as conductor in 1867.
As a composer there are numerous works for double bass, including the famous concertos. Bottesini also produced 10 operas. When conducting opera, Bottesini would frequently bring his double bass on stage to play fantasies on the evening’s opera during the interval. (eg. "Fantasy on Lucia di Lammermoor")
As a conductor, Bottesini was invited by his friend Verdi to conduct the first performance of "Aida." This was in 1871 whilst Bottesini held a conducting post at the Cairo Opera House. Also on Verdi’s recommendation he was appointed director of Parma Conservatory in 1888.
Carlo Antonio Testore (1693-1765) was a prolific maker and is reputed to have made this instrument in Milan in 1716 - aged 23. However in some reference books it is his father, Carlo Giuseppe (c. 1660-1716) who is credited with making the instrument. The confusion is entirely due to the lack of labels in these fine old instruments.
The f-holes are unique to Testore’s work. The table is pine, and the flat back and ribs of pearwood which was popular with makers in Northern Italy. The design is beautifully compact. Often his instruments have a scratched double line in place of the more normal inlaid purfling.